Health experts to set ‘safe social media time limits’

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Medical experts have been instructed by the government to draw up official guidelines for social media use amid fears over its impact on child mental health.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock has asked the UK’s chief medical officer, Dame Sally Davies, to start preparing official guidance on safe time limits, like those on recommended maximum alcohol consumption for adults.

In an interview with the Observer before the Conservative party conference, Mr Hancock said he was “very worried” as a father of three children by the growing evidence of the detrimental effect on the health of young people.

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He told the paper: “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.”

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He added: “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 judgements on behalf of society, so that individual schools or individual parents don’t have to decide.”

Some social media platforms, including Facebook and Instagram, have moved to mitigate fears of addiction by introducing tools that enable users to monitor and restrict their time on the services.

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But Mr Hancock hit out at both platforms over a lack of policing of their rules on age limits.

“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,” he told the Observer.

“The guidelines for WhatsApp say you shouldn’t be on it unless you’re 16. But again, they don’t lift a finger.”

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Public campaigns such as Scroll Free September have also been launched to encourage people to use social media less.

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The initiative from the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) asked people to stop using the “Big 5” platforms – Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat and YouTube – in September, or to cut down the amount of time they spend on them.

In July, the RSPH carried out a survey which found almost two-thirds of users considered taking part in the initiative and many believed giving up social media would have a positive impact on their lives.

From – SkyNews

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