Social media damaging pupil mental health

95% of heads say social media is damaging pupils’ mental health

An overwhelming 95% of headteachers in the UK feel that social media is detrimental to the mental health and wellbeing of their pupils, and that more needs to be done to safeguard them online.

This is according to a new survey from the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), reported in an Education Executive article. The 460 secondary headteachers polled came from both state and independent schools in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Heads were asked about the effect social media has had on their students – here are the most salient findings:

– All apart from one respondent has had to deal with reports of students being bullied on social media.
– Nearly all (457) had received reports of children coming across upsetting material – such as self-harm, sexual content and hate speech – with 27% stating that such incidents occurred on a daily or weekly basis.
– 89% had received reports of strangers getting in contact with pupils via social media.
– 93% had heard of pupils suffering low self-esteem due to seeing idealised images and experiences on social sites, with 22% stating that students experienced these feelings on a daily or weekly basis.
– 96% had received reports of pupils’ sleep being affected due to social media use, with 32% dealing with reports on a daily or weekly basis.

Proposals to introduce new laws and regulation to keep children safe on social media received huge support from headteachers, with 93% agreeing that it would benefit pupils. A further 77% in the survey said the government should work with social media companies to create more guidance for parents.

Last October the government unveiled its initiative to make Britain ‘the safest place in the world to be online,’ putting forward a voluntary code of practice for social media providers. Yet, there are calls from the NSPCC to make the code mandatory and supported by an independent regulator.

ASCL general secretary, Geoff Barton, commented: “Social media can be a force for good, helping young people connect with each other in a positive manner. But it also has a dark side which can be seen only too clearly from our survey.

“It is a technology which has grown at great speed, outstripping our ability as a society to understand and mitigate against these negative impacts. More must be done to protect young people so that they can enjoy social media safely and responsibly.”

In the study, heads said they implement a wide range of activities at school to educate pupils on how to stay safe online, including speakers and seminars, assemblies, dedicated awareness days and discussion sessions. However, many felt that parents needed to take on more responsibility, but that they need more guidance in order to do so.

Here’s a handy guide to pass to parents:

What steps are you taking to ensure your pupils stay safe online? Do you agree that social media companies and government need to do more to help protect them?



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