MPs call for tax and duty of care on social media companies to protect young people

Teen girl phoneA group of MPs want to see a tax imposed on social media companies in order to help fund a body that will conduct research and provide guidance to the public about keeping safe online.

The All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Social Media and Young People’s Mental Health and Wellbeing carried out an inquiry between April 2018 and January 2019 to examine the impact of social media on the mental health and wellbeing of young people.

The report found that though social media can provide a platform for self-expression, making and maintaining connections, and learning, it also puts young people at risk of being exposed to cyberbullying and mental health problems.

12 per cent of children who spend no time on social media sites have symptoms of mental ill health, according to the AAPG’s research. This figure increases to 27 per cent in those who spend three or more hours on the platforms each day. Moreover, 38 per cent of the young people surveyed said that social media had a negative impact on their self-esteem – a figure which rises to 46 per cent among girls alone.

Despite this, 63 per cent of young people find that social media is a good source of health information.

The AAPG is calling on the government to create a ‘Social Media Health Alliance’, funded by a 0.5 per cent tax on the profits of social media companies, to fund research, provide online education, and offer guidance to the public.

In addition, the group of MPs wants to see a duty of care on all social media companies with registered UK users aged 24 and under, as well as calling for evidence-based guidance for young people to avoid excessive social media use and the commissioning of a longitudinal study into the true impact of social media on the mental health and wellbeing of young people.

“For far too long social media companies have been allowed to operate in an online Wild West. And it is in this lawless landscape that our children currently work and play online. This cannot continue. As the report makes clear, now is the time for the government to take action,” said Chris Elmore MP, chair of the APPG on Social Media on Young People’s Mental Health and Wellbeing.

“The recommendations from our Inquiry are both sensible and reasonable; they would make a huge difference to the current mental health crisis among our young people.”