UK health experts to set social media guidelines for young people

Social media appsMedical experts in the UK have been asked to draw up guidelines around the maximum of time young people should be allowed to spend on social media.

Speaking to the Observer, the UK’s health secretary Matt Hancock said he has asked the chief medical officer, Dame Sally Davies, to get to work on advice that he hopes would one day be accepted as the norm, similar to the recommended maximum alcohol consumption for adults.

“I am, as a father, very worried about the growing evidence of the impact of social media on children’s mental health,” Hancock told the newspaper.

“Unrestricted use [of social media] by younger children risks being very damaging to their mental health. So, I have asked the chief medical officer to bring forward formal guidance on its use by children.”

“As a parent you want to be able to say, ‘the rules say you shouldn’t use social media for more than a certain period of time’. This is why we have a chief medical officer: to set a norm in society, make judgments on behalf of society, so that individual schools or individual parents don’t have to decide.”

In addition to laying out guidance on the time spent using social media, Hancock has asked Davies to also create guidelines on the minimum ages that young people should be allowed to use certain sites.

“The terms of reference of Facebook and Instagram say you shouldn’t be on it if you are under the age of 13 But they do nothing to police that,” said Hancock. “The guidelines for WhatsApp say you shouldn’t be on it unless you’re 16. But again, they don’t lift a finger.”