Schools should teach children how to “manage the risks” of sites like Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram to protect them from cyber bullying and online sexual abuse, a group of MPs has insisted.
Excessive social media use is also leading to sleep deprivation and depression in teens, a joint Commons inquiry by the health and education committees found.
“Building digital resilience so that it becomes a normality is something we have to get our heads around. It is here to stay and it will only increase,” Sarah Brennan, CEO of mental health charity YoungMinds, said.
“It is about what happens online, but it is also about the physical effects of young people using social media into the night—the impact of a blue screen on sleep and the impact of lack of sleep on mood and depression.”
The report revealed that one in 10 children under the age of 16 has already been diagnosed with a mental health disorder, with half of mental illnesses beginning before 15.
However, due to financial pressures, schools and colleges are now struggling to offer support to their students.
Ministers criticised cuts to youth mental health services as a “false economy”, pointing out that funding already varies region to region.
“Schools and colleges have a front line role in tackling mental ill health and promoting well-being among children and young people,” MP Neil Carmichael MP, chairman of the education committee, said.
“We have heard, however, that financial pressures are restricting their ability to run services. Schools and colleges must be well resourced to provide on-site support and make referrals where necessary.”
The report comes a week after an NSPCC poll found that 80% of teenagers believe social media sites are not doing enough to protect young people from pornography, bullying and content on self-harm.