Social media data needed for ‘harm’ research, say doctors

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Leading UK psychiatrists say they’re going to never understand the risks and benefits of social media use on children’s psychological state unless companies fork over their data to researchers.

Tech companies must be made to share data and pay a tax to fund important research, they assert during a report. There is growing evidence internet use can harm psychological state but research remains lacking, it adds. An independent regulator for online safety is planned by the govt.

The report, by the Royal College of Psychiatrists, calls on the regulator to need social-media companies to share data on how children and children are using the likes of Instagram, Facebook and Twitter – not just what proportion time they spend online.

The data collected would be anonymous, the report says.

Ian Russell, who believes Instagram was partly liable for his daughter Molly taking her life aged 14, is backing the calls.”Two years ago, Molly’s suicide smashed sort of a wrecking ball into my family’s life,” he said.

“Without research using data from social media companies, we’ll never skill content can lead our youngsters and children to self-harm or, within the most tragic cases, take their own lives.”

There are often many positives to children using technology, like online support, instant communication with friends and access to information, but screen time also can be potentially harmful to health, psychiatrists say.

For example, online content is often distressing and youngsters can become hooked into screens at the expense of sleep, exercise and family time. The research was still fragmented but initial evidence of “negative physical, psychological state and cognitive associations” required further inter-disciplinary, nationally-funded research, the report states.

What is the recommendation to parents?

Avoid screen time
For 2 to 5year-olds:

  • ensure any screen time is a component of a varied and balanced day, including physical activity and face-to-face conversation
  • spend a minimum of three hours each day on physical activity
  • children should spend no quite one hour sitting watching or twiddling with screens

For 5 to 11 year-olds:

  • develop an idea together with your child for screen time and check out to stay thereto
  • ensure children have a balance of activities within the day, with physical activity, face-to-face conversation and tech-free times
  • encourage mealtimes to be tech-free
  • ensure you have spoken to your children about the way to keep safe online, check they’re keeping safe and make it clear you’ll support them if they feel unsafe or upset online
  • try to ensure there are not any screens within the bedroom in the dark

For 11- to 16-year- olds:

  • develop an idea or check your existing one remains appropriate
  • encourage a balance of physical activity, face-to-face social time, schoolwork and family time
  • encourage mealtimes to be tech-free
  • keep having conversations about keeping safe online and offer space to speak about upsetting things teenagers might see online
  • make it clear you’ll support them if they feel unsafe or upset online
  • try to ensure there are not any screens within the bedroom in the dark

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