Impact of social media and screen-use on young people’s health Contents

3Risks, harms and benefits of social media and screens

41.Notwithstanding the points made in Chapter 2 about the current limitations of the evidence base, it is important to stress that the absence of good academic evidence is not—in itself—evidence that social media has no effect on young people.64 During our inquiry, it has become increasingly clear to us that the potential links between social media, screens and the wellbeing of young people is an area of concern for parents, carers, teachers, and children alike.

42.The majority of the evidence we received focused on the benefits and harms to the health of young people of using social media platforms. This Chapter sets out that evidence. We also highlight some areas, however, that while not directly health-related, may nevertheless have implications for the health and wellbeing of young people.

Benefits of using social media

43.Much of the media attention surrounding social media has focused on its negative impacts, particularly on young people. In the OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) wellbeing study of 15 year olds, however, 90.5% of boys and 92.3% of girls in the UK agreed with the statement that “it is very useful to have social media networks on the Internet”.65 Throughout our inquiry, we heard about a range of instances where social media was a force for good in the lives of young people.

Friendships and support

44.First and foremost, social media was seen as a vital way to connect with friends and family, particularly across long distances, but also with friends who attended different schools. Orlaith, one of the young people who gave oral evidence to us, explained how she was friends with “quite a lot of people” who she did “not see face to face frequently”, and that social media was “useful to keep in contact” with them.66 Our survey of over 3,000 pupils aged between 6 and 19 years showed that “following friends’ updates” was the main reason 27% of respondents used social media.

45.A joint response from the charities YoungMinds and The Children’s Society, based on their own engagement with 1,000 young people aged 11–25 years, reported that social media helped “to foster and sustain relationships”, with 62% of respondents agreeing that “social media had a positive impact on their relationship with their friends”.67 They also emphasised that the nature of online communication enabled some young people to be more “open and honest” in their conversations with friends about their “thoughts and feelings”.68 As techUK put it:

The level of anonymity granted online allows young people the space to express themselves, something they might not be ready or able to do in a face-to-face setting. Forums and online groups create a safe space for young people to speak openly and frankly about their concerns and worries.69

This, in turn, can help young people to “bond and to feel less lonely”.70

46.In addition to keeping in touch with existing friends, social media was also highlighted as a way to make new friends, particularly with people who had shared interests and experiences. According to the Anti-bullying Alliance, building these types of connections can be particularly important when a young person is “experiencing social difficulties or isolation in their daily lives”.71

47.Research conducted with 1,060 teenagers in the USA, and highlighted by Professor Przybylski and colleagues, found that 57% of those aged 13 to 17 had made a new friend online, while 68% said they had “received social support by using [social media] technologies in tough or challenging times”.72 This latter point came through in work conducted in the UK by the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH), with “nearly seven in 10 teens” reporting that they had received “support on social media during tough or challenging times”.73

Creativity and learning

48.Girlguiding stressed that “the positive and empowering ways that young people use the internet—such as for communication, creativity and activism—[should] not [be] overlooked”.74 It went on to quote from one of its advocates, ‘Katie’, who stated that:

the internet gives young people a voice […] gives us access to political discourse, and has made us one of the most connected and worldly generations of all time—and the value of this cannot be overlooked.75

A similar point was raised by a student from The Castle School in Gloucestershire. They explained how social media had created “a place where people can talk to and find out more about people from various different backgrounds”.76

49.As well as learning about people from different cultures, sites such as YouTube, with its video tutorials, were highlighted as playing an important role in helping people learn and develop skills.77 The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) noted the potential for social media to facilitate collaboration on school projects while Bristol Safeguarding Children’s Board reflected on how A-Level students were using social media to quickly exchange “revision tips and resources”.78

50.Sharing creative projects, such as blogs, vlogs and podcasts, was also raised by the Big Lottery Fund as a means to improve the mental health of young people. It cited the example of HeadStart in Blackpool which had developed a series of social media accounts—with the content created by young people—as a means to build “young people’s confidence” and help “them to support their peers”.79

51.The potential for social media to empower young people with disabilities, through promoting “a sense of belonging, identity and community” was similarly emphasised by YoungMinds and The Children’s Society. They stressed that “belonging to online communities can support children and young people who are isolated due to disabilities or communication needs”.80 Professor Przybylski also noted that online games (which have a ‘social’ element) can have “a destigmatising effect especially for people with different forms of disability who might [otherwise] be left out”.81

Health advice

52.A further potential benefit of social media was the provision of health advice. As UKRI explained, “social media can enable clinical engagement with hard-to-reach, vulnerable young people, and the recruitment of those groups to research studies, e.g. through Facebook and Twitter”.82 The Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) found that young people rated YouTube positively “in terms of providing access to health information, awareness of other people’s health and wellbeing issues” and delivering “emotional support”. It went on to note that:

Health campaigns can gain credibility through community promotion on social media platforms, and the very personal nature of someone sharing their experiences, especially on platforms as interactive as YouTube, can provide others with practical strategies and coping mechanisms.83

53.Barnardo’s, however, sounded a word of caution about the reliability and credibility of online health advice. It agreed with a recommendation made by the RSPH, in its #StatusofMind report, that NHS England’s Information Standard Principles should be applied to health advice published on social media.84 The Principles were designed to produce good quality, usable health information and their application to health advice on social media was viewed as a valuable means to communicate to children and young people that it was trustworthy.85

Risks of social media and screens

Risk or harm?

54.Before examining some of the negative aspects of social media, it is important to emphasise that the terms ‘risk’ and ‘harm’ were often used interchangeably in the evidence that we received. Sonia Livingstone, Professor of Social Psychology at the London School of Economics, however, has cautioned against conflating the two. According to Professor Livingstone, the identification of an “online risk does not imply that harm will follow, and nor that all users will be equally affected”.86 Risks, in other words, do not inevitably result in harm.

55.Figures from Ofcom show that “16% of 8–11s” and “31% of 12–15s” who go online say they have, at some point, “seen online content that they found worrying or nasty”.87 Previously, Ofcom asked children if they had seen anything in the “past year” that upset them rather than “ever”. Our own survey of over 3,000 young people indicated that 54% of respondents had witnessed ‘mean comments’ on social media. We do not know from Ofcom’s survey, or our own, what the consequences were on the child of viewing the worrying or nasty content and whether a particular ‘harm’ followed.

56.With these points in mind, this section outlines the potential risks we have heard about and details—where we have evidence—the likelihood and magnitude of harm.

Physical health and activity

57.A limited amount of evidence was received on how social media and screen-use might have an impact on the physical health of young people. The literature in this area has tended to assume that negative, physical health effects arise from digital technologies ‘displacing’ other activities that are deemed more “valuable”, such as exercise, socialising face-to-face, or reading a book.88 Writing in the British Medical Journal, Dr Vaughan Bell and colleagues noted that “low levels of physical activity associated with the passive use of digital technology have been linked to obesity and diabetes”.89 Dr Max Davie from the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health told us that there were “a few ways” in which screen-time might impact upon obesity:

One is that it is sedentary. Secondly, it appears that you increase your intake of high density calorie food when you are engaged in screen time […] Thirdly, there is exposure to high-density food advertising, which online is not very well regulated.90

58.Research to date, however, has focused on television screens, rather than smartphones, computers or tablets. The RCPCH’s review of ‘screen-time on health’ found that while there was “moderately-strong evidence that higher television screen-time [was] associated with greater adiposity”, at all ages, there was “insufficient evidence for an association between adiposity and overall screen-time (i.e. across all types of screens)”.91 Elsewhere it has been suggested that:

physical inactivity is unlikely to be a direct consequence of adolescents spending too much time on screen-based activities, but rather suggests that already-inactive adolescents have more time to spend in front of screens.92

59.Another area that has received attention is the relationship between social media, screen-time and sleep. The young people who gave evidence to our inquiry highlighted how the need to be on social media, and contactable at any time, could disrupt sleep. As Jack, who does not use social media, explained:

I always see people coming to school with red, bloodshot eyes […] and you know what they have been doing: they had coffee last night or something and have been up all night on Snapchat or whatever.93

Similarly, Becca, another young person, remarked:

People always do stay up really late and I could confidently put a message in any of my group chats at 3 o’clock in the morning and someone would reply.94

One in five respondents to the Royal Society for Public Health’s survey reported that they “wake up during the night to check messages on social media”. The RSPH stated that this had a negative impact on young people’s health and well-being since a “lack of sleep leaves young people three times more likely to feel constantly tired at school than their classmates who don’t use social media during the night”.95 A recent study conducted in the USA reported that those children who undertook at least 60 minutes of physical activity daily, had between 9 and 11 hours sleep per night, and spent two hours or less using screens ‘recreationally’ had “superior global cognition”.96 Based on their findings, the researchers recommended that parents and paediatricians should encourage limiting recreational screen-time and prioritising healthy sleep routines throughout childhood and adolescence.97

60.Once again, however, the academic evidence base has been called into question. The US study, for example, did not distinguish between types of screen, nor what the screen was being used for or the content being viewed. The RCPCH found that there was “weak evidence that screen-time is associated with poor sleep outcomes including delay in sleep onset, reduced total sleep time and daytime tiredness”.98 Professor Przybylski and colleagues, meanwhile, reported that the effects of screen-time on sleep outcomes were “complex” and potentially “bi-directional” since:

results from longitudinal studies […] suggest that individuals who are unable to sleep are more motivated to use digital screens to manage their sleep problems, instead of a simple displacement effect where technology use directly decreases sleep time.99

61.There is some emerging evidence that the devices used to access social media and the Internet may have an effect on the body and its physical development. Anna Clark from Cardinus Risk Management highlighted that there was “research looking at backs, spines and posture” and that while the “biological make-up” of children can mean that they “tend not to get repetitive strain as often” as adults, there were ongoing studies examining “children texting with one thumb and texting with two thumbs and how it is impacting on the c-spine”.100

62.Witnesses also drew attention to the potential effects of the ‘blue light’ emitted from smartphone and tablet screens on sleep. Dr Heather Woods, Lecturer in Psychology at the University of Glasgow, noted that there was “evidence to show that the blue light emitted from devices has an effect on a chemical in the brain called melatonin. Melatonin facilitates the onset of sleep and blue light suppresses that”.101 Dr Woods added, however, that “you would need to be on a screen for a very long time and have it very close to your face for it to have an effect”.102

Electromagnetic fields

63.We received some evidence that considered the health effects of non-ionising radiation, notably from the use of wi-fi on devices such as smartphones and tablets.103 We note that Public Health England’s guidance on this matter has been informed by a review of the scientific evidence undertaken by the Independent Advisory Group on Non-ionising Radiation and published in 2012.104 The review concluded that “the evidence considered overall has not demonstrated any adverse health effects of RF [radiofrequency] field exposure below internationally accepted guideline levels”. It added that there were “possible effects on EEG [brain activity] patterns, but these have not been conclusively established and it is unclear whether such effects would have any health consequences”.105

64.The report of the Independent Advisory Group on Non-ionising Radiation on the ‘Health effects from Radiofrequency Electromagnetic Fields’ is now nearly seven years old. In its Response to our Report, we ask the Government to outline what assessment it has made of the quantity and quality of the research on this topic, published since 2012, and to explain whether another evidence review is now warranted.

Screen-time guidelines?

65.According to the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) “no authoritative body has issued guidance on screen-time and media use for children in the UK”.106 In the United States, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) had previously recommended no screen-time for children younger than two years old and no more than two hours per day for older children (known as the 2 x 2 rule). In 2016, the AAP revised its guidance; for 2–5 year olds, screen-time should be less than one hour per day, with parents watching high-quality programming alongside their child to interpret and discuss what they are viewing. For those six years and over, parents should limit screen-time, in discussion/agreement with their children, to ensure that it does not displace other important activities such as sleeping and playing.107

66.Sonia Livingstone, Professor of Social Psychology at the London School of Economics, noted that it was “hard to find the evidence in the report for the specific new recommendation of a one-hour limit for 2–5 year olds” and that “just one study” was cited on the correlation between screen-time and body mass index.108 Similarly, the RCPCH stated that there was generally “no strong evidence for a particular threshold or cut-point in terms of a recommended number of hours of screen-time in relation to adiposity”.109

67.Several witnesses, however, stressed that screen-time guidance was needed. Sarah Hannafin from the National Association of Head Teachers emphasised that some “evidence-based central guidance on screen time would be fantastic, not just for schools but for families, communities and for all of us”.110 Will Gardner from the UK Safer Internet Centre also indicated that children themselves would appreciate guidance. Reflecting on a recent visit to a primary school, he explained how the children “wanted to know, ‘How do we recognise the signs of over-use of technology, and what strategies can we use to deal with those when they arise?’”.111

68.Some tech companies are now trying to make it easier for users to monitor their screen-time. Apple’s newest operating system, iOS 12, contains a feature called ‘screen time’ which will send daily or weekly activity reports, telling you how long has been spent on particular apps, as well as how frequently a user is picking the device up. It also includes ‘Downtime’; a feature that enables users to set a daily schedule for when they do not want to use the device. Once activated, the feature restricts device usage to phone calls and any apps that the user has specifically exempted from Downtime.

69.Early in 2019, the RCPCH published guidance to help parents manage their children’s screen-time, though it stopped short of recommending the maximum number of hours that should be spent in front of a screen. The guidance emphasised that “evidence is weak for a threshold to guide children and parents to the appropriate level of screen time” and did not “recommend a cut-off for children’s screen time overall”.112 Instead, the RCPCH posed four questions aimed to help families examine, and guide, their screen time:

70.Guidance is also expected shortly from the Chief Medical Officer for England (CMO) Professor Dame Sally Davies. As noted in paragraph 35, the CMO is leading a “systematic review to examine all relevant international research” on the relationship between social media and the mental health of children and young people. Dame Sally has also been asked by the Health and Social Care Secretary of State, Rt Hon Matt Hancock MP, to “draw up guidance to help parents ensure children don’t use social media in a way that harms their mental health”.114 This will include guidance on “what age a child should be allowed to sign up to a social media account, and how often they should have access”.115

71.We welcome Dame Sally Davies’ work in this important area and look forward to reading the results of her review, and subsequent guidance, in due course. We note that many parents find it extremely challenging to moderate social media usage, especially where older children are involved. It would be helpful if this was recognised by those giving guidance to parents.

Mental health and wellbeing

72.In 2015, the Office for National Statistics reported that, based on data from 2011 and 2012, children who spent more than three hours on “social websites” on a normal school night were “more than twice as likely to show symptoms of mental ill-health” compared to those who spent no time, or less than three hours, on such websites.116 What is unclear from the ONS statistics is the direction of the relationship; it could be, for example, that someone already experiencing a mental health problem is more likely to use social media.

73.Some of the most recent data on this issue comes from NHS Digital’s survey of the Mental health of children and young people in England, published in November 2018. It found that 11 to 19 years olds with a “mental disorder” were more likely to use social media every day (87.3%) than those without a disorder (77%) and were also more likely to be on social media for longer.117 Rates of daily social media usage also varied by type of disorder; 90.4% of those with emotional disorders used social media daily, while 68.0% of those with neurodevelopmental disorders, such as hyperactivity disorder and autism spectrum disorder, did so.118 Again, these statistics do not provide the direction of the relationship; they are indicators of an association.

74.In the context of screen-time, the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health reported that there was “moderately-strong evidence for an association between screen-time and depressive symptoms” but that overall, the evidence for an association of screen-time with “behaviour problems, anxiety, hyperactivity and inattention, poor self-esteem and poor wellbeing [was] weak”.119 As highlighted in Chapter 2, the most robust research to date indicates that “moderate engagement in digital activities has little detrimental effect on, and even some positive correlates with, well-being”.120

75.The evidence we received on the risks that social media and screens may present to a young person’s mental health, however was wide-ranging and not confined to specific, diagnosed mental health conditions: Indeed much of it was focused on mental and emotional wellbeing more generally. Internet Matters, an organisation formed by the major UK Internet service providers, broke down the potential risks into the ‘three C’s’:

76.A 2017 literature review conducted by the UK Council for Child Internet Safety (UKCCIS) Evidence Group presented the three C’s in the following table:

Child as receiver
(of mass productions)

Child as participant
(adult-initiated activity)

Child as actor


Violent/gory content

Harassment stalking

Bullying, hostile peer activity


Pornographic content

‘Grooming’, sexual abuse on meeting strangers

Sexual harassment, ’sexting’


Racist/hateful content

Ideological persuasion

Potentially harmful user-generated content


Advertising, embedded marketing

Personal data exploitation

Gambling, copyright infringement

Source: UK Council for Child Internet Safety, Children’s online activities, risks and safety. A literature review by the UKCCIS Evidence Group, October 2017, p 26



77.According to the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC), “online pornography is one click away for most UK children”.122 The BBFC’s written evidence highlighted UKCCIS research into the impact of pornography on children. It found that:

On the latter point, UKCCIS referenced the 2010 EU Kids Online survey of 10,000 children aged 9–16 years which found that pornography “topped the list of online content-related concerns”.124

78.Written evidence from Girlguiding indicates some of the harms that may arise from these experiences. Based on its 2015 survey with over 1,600 girls and young women aged 7 to 21 years, Girlguiding reported that:

79.Children are more likely to report unintentionally ‘stumbling across’, rather than intentionally viewing, pornography. The UK Safer Internet Centre reported findings from a 2016 study by the NSPCC, the Children’s Commissioner for England and Middlesex University. The study found that “48% of 11–16 year olds had seen online pornography”; and of those, 46% “reported viewing online pornography for the first time because it ‘just popped up’”.126

Hate speech

80.“Online hate” and “hate speech” was another type of upsetting content highlighted in our evidence. The UK Safer Internet Centre cited its 2016 report, based on a survey with 1,500 13–18 year olds, in which 82% said they had witnessed ‘online hate’—that they had “seen or heard offensive, mean or threatening behaviour targeted at or about someone based on their race, religion, disability, gender, sexual orientation or transgender identity”. Furthermore, almost a quarter (24%) said they had been the target of online hate in the last year because of their race, religion, sexual orientation, disability, gender or transgender identity”.127 Facebook told us that in the first quarter of 2018, it had removed “2.5 million pieces of hate speech” from its platform.128 Hate speech, and particularly the German Government’s approach to tackling the problem, is discussed further in Chapter 5.


81.Closely linked to ‘online hate’ is violent content and particularly the incitement of violence via social media. Speaking to The Times in March 2018, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Cressida Dick, stated that there was “definitely something about the impact of social media in terms of people being able to go from slightly angry with each other to ‘fight’ very quickly”, adding that social media “revs people up”.129 Martin Hewitt, Assistant Commissioner at the Metropolitan Police, went into more detail in oral evidence. He told us that:

at one end it [social media] glamorises and normalises gang behaviour, violent behaviour and the behaviours and criminality that are associated with gangs. At the other end of the spectrum, in some cases the use of social media as some form of taunt or challenge has led directly to very serious criminality, up to and including murders.130

He went on to explain that:

What previously would have been a conflict between one gang and another that would have found its way through word of mouth […] can now very quickly become amplified and spread as it moves across the various platforms, because things jump from platform to platform.131

82.The Assistant Commissioner’s latter point, that social media works to “amplify” existing violent behaviour and trends, was echoed by Dr Keir Irwin-Rogers, a Lecturer in Criminology at The Open University. Dr Irwin-Rogers remarked that:

the perennial problem that underpins lots of violence across societies and throughout history [is that] when an individual or a group disrespects or threatens another individual or group, it leads to violence. Social media does not fundamentally alter the nature of that; it just enhances the problem.132

Bristol Safeguarding Children’s Board indicated that the amplification of violence via social media was apparent outside of ‘gang-related’ crime. It gave the example of “parents wading in on social media with threats of violence or confrontation to ‘protect’ their own child”.133

83.A slightly different perspective was provided by Sheldon Thomas, a former gang member and now a consultant on gangs and youth violence for Gangsline. He described how “tit for tat” gang-related activity was “definitely played out on YouTube” but that the site was also used:

first, to recruit young people, secondly, to get girls, and, thirdly, to promote wealth. Drug gang members promote their wealth by showing off in their videos the diamonds, the stuff, the crystal, the drinks and the alcohol. Another thing they have been doing is promoting alcohol indirectly and subliminally by using YouTube videos.134


84.Mr Thomas was not the only witness to raise concerns about advertising via social media, albeit in a different context to gang-violence. Both young people and parents highlighted their experiences of children being exposed to, and targeted by, unsuitable advertisements. Orlaith, a young person, told us that a big issue for her was the “advertising on websites of other websites that are inappropriate”,135 while Becca, another young person, was concerned about “demeaning images towards women, which often pop up on websites and things, and the impact that that can have on what is normal to young people”.136 One parent outlined how, after his child had logged into an “anime cartoon channel”, he was receiving “pop ups and advertising” that “directed him to [unsuitable] content”, including pornography.137

85.Social media has also changed the nature and delivery of advertising. The Institute of Alcohol Studies noted that marketing to children and young people was often achieved via ‘user-generated’ content and social media influencers, rather than by the brand or organisation making a direct pitch. It suggested that the “nature and reach of social media might mean that this secondary sharing of user-generated content is more potent than the original campaign from the brand”.138 It added, however, that there was “little scope within the current self-regulatory system to address” the harms that may arise from user-generated content that is intended to advertise products like alcohol and tobacco to children.139

Fake news and ‘deep fakes’

86.There was an awareness among the young people we heard from of ‘fake news’, though less so of ‘deep fake’ imagery and videos. The latter is a computer-generated replica of a person—be it a picture or video—usually doing or saying something that they have never, in real life, said or done. Though there is no agreed definition of ‘fake news’, Jack, a young person who gave evidence to our inquiry, likened it to the spread of “crazy stories” via social media, adding that it was:

so easy to write anything and then it is instantly […] validated by the fact that someone else will read it and someone else will like it, and then, to you, that means it is real, so you are creating something or basically you think something is real because other people think it is real.140

For Jack, this meant that he was “sceptical about everything [he] reads”, while Becca, another young person who spoke to us, thought that young people were “much more aware now” of fake news.141

87.Despite being alert to the presence of fake news, we received a limited amount of evidence on its potential risks and harms to children. In its Disinformation and ‘fake news’ inquiry, however, the DCMS Committee has examined, in detail, the impact both fake news and deep fakes may have on democracy, values and voting behaviour, and on the conduct of elections. For this reason, we have not explored the issue in depth. We welcome, however, the Minister for Digital and the Creative Industries’ assurances that the need to warn users of potentially fake content is “very much in the ballpark” of what the Government is currently looking at including in its forthcoming White Paper.142


Grooming, child abuse and child sexual exploitation

88.The potential for grooming,143 child sexual abuse and child sexual exploitation to occur online, via social media, was referenced in the evidence we received. The NSPCC used the broader term “online abuse”, which it defined as

abuse that is facilitated using internet-connected technology […] including, but not limited to: harassment; stalking; threatening behaviour; child sexual abuse material; inciting a child to sexual activity; sexual exploitation; grooming; sexual communication with a child; and, causing a child to view images or watch videos of a sexual act.144

89.Children and young people who have experienced this type of abuse online have reported a range of negative effects. The NSPCC noted that effects include “flashbacks; depression; self-harm; anxiety; and self-blame”.145 A 2017 literature review conducted by the UK Council for Child Internet Safety (UKCCIS) Evidence Group warned, however, that there was “limited knowledge about the nature of sexual crimes against children mediated through information and communication technologies (ICT), those who perpetrate them, and the impact of these crimes on children”.146 While similarly recognising that there was limited data on the prevalence of grooming, the UK Safer Internet Centre did draw attention to a 2016 survey of young adults aged between 12 and 16 years. The survey reported that “53% (n=181) of respondents in the UK had been sexually solicited online”.147

90.More recently, the NSPCC found, through Freedom of Information requests, that there were over 3,000 police-recorded offences for sexual communication with a child in England and Wales in 2017/18—2,813 in England and 274 in Wales—and a further 82 in Northern Ireland. In Scotland, there were 462 records of the equivalent offence of communicating indecently with a child in 2016/17.148 The NSPCC’s own research has shown that “more than one in seven children aged 11–18 (15%) have been asked to send sexual messages or images of themselves, while one in ten girls aged 13 or under had received a request”.149

91.The statistics on recorded offences, however, may only tell a limited part of the story. The UKCCIS literature review noted that “online grooming is rarely disclosed by the victims”, possibly because they “may be in fear of the perpetrator” or because they “may feel that they are in a relationship with the perpetrator”.150 The National Crime Agency (NCA) also stressed that the:

threat picture is impeded by a lack of reporting from vulnerable groups, including children who are disabled, those questioning their sexual identity and from black and minority ethnic (BME) communities.151

92.Another measure to consider is referrals to other services. Emily Cherry from Barnardo’s was clear that one of the trends the charity is beginning to see is:

children being groomed by criminal gangs, for both sexual exploitation and criminal exploitation […] When we looked at it in our “Digital dangers” report, our practitioners told us that, in a three-year period, the percentage of referrals for child sexual abuse [CSA] with an internet aspect had gone from 20% of young people in CSA services to 75% of the referrals coming through the doors (our emphasis).152

The NCA also reported that the referrals it had received from the National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children had “increased by 700% over the last four years [2014–18]”. The NCA expected this upward trend to continue “as the volume of internet data continues to grow”.153 The Home Secretary has stated that “up to 80,000 people” in the UK present “some kind of sexual threat to children online”.154

93.Guardian Saints, a charity focused on the online safety of children in care, noted that “looked after children” were “particularly vulnerable”, adding that “inappropriate contact by predatory adults is not uncommon”, with contact “often facilitated by the use of social media”.155 In its written evidence, Barnardo’s stressed that referrals were not solely from groups already deemed ‘at risk’:

Victims of online abuse and exploitation accessing […] services ‘do not necessarily have a stereotypical history of sexual abuse and/or exploitation. Increasingly, referrals are for children who come from stable, safe and supportive family environments’, there is no ‘typical victim’.156

94.The NSPCC told us how experiences of technology-facilitated abuse can have a “devastating and long-lasting impact on children’s mental health and wellbeing”, with children becoming “more likely to suffer from a range of long-term mental health conditions, including […] anxiety, depression, self-harm, conduct disorders, and a higher risk of suicide”.157 Once again, however, witnesses indicated that social media was not the cause of child abuse and sexual exploitation, but rather that it enabled “a large degree of amplification and facilitation”.158

95.As Will Gardner from the UK Safer Internet Centre explained, in the context of grooming via social media, “the groomer might have access to more young people than they would otherwise”.159 The NSPCC provided more detail and emphasised how:

social networking and messaging apps allow offenders to immerse themselves into the most intimate aspects of children’s lives. Messages can be exchanged at night, out of sight of parents and carers, which can build feelings of secrecy and intimacy in increasingly exploitative and abusive relationships.160

‘Self-generated’ images and ‘sexting’

96.Claire Lilley from Google UK noted that a “lot of child sexual abuse is generated by young people themselves, taking what they call sexting images”.161 While there is no clear definition of ‘sexting’ it is generally considered to be “sending or posting sexually suggestive images, including nude or semi-nude photographs, via mobiles or over the Internet”.162

97.A 2016 study of 11–16 year olds, jointly conducted by the NSPCC, the Children’s Commissioner for England and Middlesex University, found that 13% of boys and girls had taken a topless picture of themselves and 3% had taken fully naked pictures. Of those who had taken sexual images, 55% had shared them with others while 31% had also shared the image with someone that they did not know.163 Under the Protection of Children Act 1978 (England and Wales) as amended by the Sexual Offences Act 2003 (England and Wales) it is an offence to possess, distribute, show and make indecent images of children, with the Sexual Offences Act 2003 defining a child, for the purposes of indecent images, as anyone under the age of 18.164

98.The non-consensual forwarding of such images was highlighted as causing the greatest distress. As the NSPCC put it, self-generated imagery can open the door for:

exploitation and blackmail (including to prevent disclosure). The impact of losing control over an image can be devastating, particularly when it is shared among peers’ social networks, sent to family members, or shared much more widely.165

It can also lead to humiliation and reputational damage both in and outside of school. Becca told us how she knew:

so many people who have had so many problems with this [sexting] and images being shared round the whole school, people going, “Oh, has anyone seen this?” It’s horrible, but there is so much pressure because people just want to feel like they are grown up and that people appreciate them.166

Students at Fullhurst College in Leicester thought that the pressure of ‘sexting’ became a bigger problem as you got older and that it was not discussed as part of online safety.167

99.In addition to sharing images between peers, adults grooming children may also coerce those children into taking and sharing indecent images of themselves. A report by the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF), published in May 2018, stated that, over the previous six months, its data had shown that:

a little over a third (38%) of reports to the [IWF] on child sexual abuse online were now what we term ‘self-produced’. This term refers to a scenario where the child is alone, or with other children and is persuaded or ‘groomed’ into taking images or videos of child sexual abuse and then share them, often with someone they trust.168

100.Susie Hargreaves from the IWF, developed this point further. She told us that, in the “13-plus age range”, the IWF were:

seeing an increase in the amount of abuse where young people are self-generating images, and those are being shared in many ways. Normally, they are being coerced in some way to do that or the images are being shared without their permission. Those tend to be lower-level images, but the young people themselves are actively participating in them, even if it is under coercion.169

101.Speaking to The Daily Telegraph, the NCA’s Director of Vulnerabilities, Rob Jones, explained that technology firms had the technology to be more proactive to prevent images reaching the web in the first place, to stop crime happening and to hunt down paedophiles grooming children but that their response to date had been “too reactive”.170 When asked if the NCA’s view was unfair, Claire Lilley from Google UK replied that she thought it was, noting that:

At Google, we run our own technology to identify child sexual abuse images. We do that proactively. We have developed technology to identify child sexual abuse video content, and we make that freely available. In the last month, we have developed and released for use by industry players and NGOs content to identify new child sexual abuse material.171

Live streaming

102.The live streaming of abuse was another major problem raised by the IWF, the Children’s Commissioner for England and Barnardo’s. Anne Longfield, the Children’s Commissioner, described figures produced by the NSPCC on the scale of the problem as “horrific”:

One in 10 children involved in video streaming have been asked to take off their clothes. It is a lower amount for live streaming, but that is a dreadfully high figure and it is growing.172

Emily Cherry from Barnardo’s highlighted its report on live streaming which found that over 50% of children aged 10 to 15 years were using live streaming apps and that:

over half of children regretted posting content after posting it. They are putting out live-streaming content and then experiencing negative comments, trolling and, potentially, adults grooming them.173

103.Live streaming was described by the NCA as a growing threat with “children’s own use of self-broadcast live-streaming apps now being exploited by offenders”.174 According to Susie Hargreaves from the IWF, there is not, at the moment:

the technology to detect when that is happening in a live moment. What happens for us is that it may be recorded and then come on to sexual abuse websites. That content will reappear […] Catching it in the moment is still very much a law enforcement issue.175

104.During our inquiry, The Times reported that it had “discovered more than 100 grooming cases in which young people who broadcast online” via YouTube, were “manipulated into inappropriate behaviour by strangers”. It added that children were promised “thousands of extra subscribers to their channels” if they complied and emphasised that the cases involved live streaming, with streams searched “using keywords” and children then communicated with groomers in the “comments section”.176

105.Throughout autumn and winter 2018, the Government made several announcements aimed at improving the response to, and ultimately stopping, child sexual exploitation online. In a speech at the NSPCC’s headquarters in September 2018, the Home Secretary, Rt Hon Sajid Javid MP, explained that he wanted “a more effective partnership between technology companies, law enforcement, the charity sector and government so that we can be confident in our response to these types of crimes”. The Home Secretary added that he was “pushing for expectations about how companies deal with online child sexual exploitation to be included in the Code of Practice that we are already asking technology companies to abide by”.177

106.In particular, he expected technology companies to:

He also announced a “£250,000 innovation call” for organisations to bid for funding to assist them in developing innovative solutions to disrupt live streaming of abuse.178

107.Commenting on the Government’s work to date with technology companies, the Minister for Digital and the Creative Industries, Margot James MP, explained that:

the Home Office has had considerable success in working with technology companies to eradicate terrorist content online. To a lesser but still significant extent, progress has also been made on a voluntary basis with the reduction in child abuse images and child sexual exploitation […] but this is a Home Office area […] and it is clear that it does not feel that anything like enough is being done through voluntary measures.179

108.Great strides have recently been made to address and remove content that incites terrorist activities. The same effort and determination must now be applied to curb the proliferation online of the physical, emotional and sexual abuse and exploitation of children, as a matter of urgency. The Home Secretary stated that he expects a more effective partnership between technology companies, law enforcement agencies, the charity sector and the Government to protect children from sexual abuse and exploitation online. Simply ‘expecting’ more, however, is an insufficient approach to tackle the grievous nature of the problem. It is worrying that we still do not have a good understanding of the scale of online child sexual exploitation.

109.The Government must proactively lead the way in ensuring that an effective partnership is in place across civil society, technology companies, law enforcement, and non-governmental organisations aimed at ending child sexual exploitation (CSE) and abuse online. The Home Office should use its research budget to commission a large-scale study that establishes the scale and prevalence of CSE which should then be updated annually. Once this has been published, we recommend that the Government set itself an ambitious target to halve reported online CSE in two years and all but eliminate it in four years. That ambition should be matched with the necessary resources, raised by the digital services tax, to make it a reality and should occur in addition to—and not instead of—establishing a legal ‘duty of care’ by social media companies towards its users who are under 18. Where companies are not voluntarily working with the Government and law enforcement agencies to prevent CSE, the Government should consider whether legal action is necessary.



110.Much of the evidence we received about the harms associated with social media related to cyberbullying. The Northern Ireland Anti-Bullying Forum described cyberbullying as bullying that takes place through electronic technologies such as mobile or smart phones, smart phone apps, social network websites and gaming consoles.180 Barnardo’s Northern Ireland outlined several different types of cyberbullying behaviour including;

In addition, the Education Policy Institute drew attention to behaviours such as:

111.Sometimes cyberbullying takes the form of ‘trolling’. This is defined by the Government, in its Internet Safety Strategy Green Paper, as alluding to the “method of catching fish by casting a baited line in the water and waiting for a fish to bite […] a troll online tries to catch an unsuspecting victim to demean and humiliate”.183 Establishing the precise prevalence of cyberbullying has proved challenging.184 DCMS reported that estimates of incidence “vary between 6–25%+ depending on measures—and that the reasons for victimisation are diverse”.185 It added that, in terms of those most at risk, the UKCCIS literature review had found that a large proportion of cyberbullying and online harassment was focused on “specific identity-related characteristics”.186

112.Sue Jones from Ditch the Label, concurred and noted that “there are groups of people—minority groups—who we know will be more at risk […] a young person who is transgender and is also a person of colour is much more likely to experience bullying”.187 Disabled children and those with special educational needs were also highlighted by Dustin Hutchinson from the National Children’s Bureau as “more vulnerable to cyber-bullying”.188

113.Most recently, NHS Digital’s survey of the Mental health of children and young people in England, published in November 2018, indicated a gendered element to cyberbullying. It found that:

One in five children aged 11 to 19 had experienced cyberbullying in the past year (21.2%). Girls were more likely than boys to have been cyberbullied: one in four girls experienced this (25.8%) compared with one in six boys (16.7%) […] Less than one in a hundred young people reported having been cyberbullied at least weekly (0.6%).189

Professor Przybylski explained that one of the reasons estimates of cyberbullying varied was due to the methodology employed and whether the researcher was focusing on incidence/frequency, or also on harm caused:

It is really important not to just ask somebody if they were bullied or how it felt; you have to ask them about the frequency, or how severe it is, because that is what we know is linked to psychopathology and functioning problems later.190

114.UKRI told us that cyberbullying exclusively via social media was “relatively uncommon among young people compared to other forms of peer victimisation, and does not normally occur in isolation”.191 A major study published in The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health in 2017, based on a sample of 100,000 15 year olds from England, supported this conclusion.192 It found that while:

nearly one third had reported some form of serious face-to-face bullying in the last six months […] only about 4% said that they had been seriously bullied online and nine out of 10 of that 4% were also bullied face to face.193

As DCMS put it, cyber bullying alone “creates very few new victims of bullying” but instead presents “an avenue for further victimisation of those already suffering from traditional forms of bullying”.194

115.While current evidence indicates that there is a firm link between ‘offline’ bullying and ‘online’ bullying, the Anti-Bullying Alliance set out several ways in which online bullying was different (our emphasis):

116.The potential for cyberbullying to be 24/7 was emphasised by several witnesses, including the Children’s Commissioner for England. She emphasised how:

cyber-bullying gets you wherever you are, and that is particularly dangerous […] what cyber-bullying does is allow individuals to track that person. They can never get away. […] Young people talk to me about the constancy of it throughout the evening into the early morning.196

117.Witnesses also stressed the psychological impacts arising from an incident being repeated over and over online, as pictures or comments are re-posted and shared to a new audience. As Dustin Hutchinson from the National Children’s Bureau put it, “when something is up there, it can be very hard to remove for the young person. It stays there and is a permanent record of the bullying or humiliation that they have experienced”.197 This, in turn, may have “more psychological effects on the person, because of the reliving of that experience.”198 Carolyn Bunting from Internet Matters described it as it taking “repetition to a different level. Basically, children can revisit the bullying over and over again”.199

118.Experiences of cyberbullying have been associated with a wide range of negative outcomes in young people including “reduced attainment, higher absence rates, increased tobacco, alcohol and drug use, mental health issues, reduced self-esteem, suicidal ideation, and poor physical health”.200 Again it was acknowledged that social media “had not caused” cyberbullying, but rather had amplified it:201 as Will Gardner noted, “the audience is bigger and, if there is humiliating content, its life can be longer than it would be if only eye witnesses saw it”.202

119.What was striking from the written evidence was the number of initiatives aimed at tackling cyberbullying. Facebook, for example, stated that “over the past five years” it had “partnered with The Diana Award in the delivery of AntiBullying Ambassador training to schools across the UK and Ireland”, which the Diana Award noted had reached 25,000 children.203 The Royal Foundation Taskforce on the Prevention of Cyberbullying launched its ‘Stop Speak Support’ campaign and created an online code of conduct for 11–16 year olds who encounter cyberbullying. DCMS also highlighted how the Department for Education was providing £1.75m of funding, over two years, for four anti-bullying organisations to “support schools to tackle bullying” including “projects targeting bullying of particular groups […] such as those with SEND [Special Educational Needs and Disability] and those who are victims of hate related bullying, along with a project to report bullying online”.204

Body image

120.One of the key features of social media is that it hands control over to the user as to how they portray themselves online. Technology, meanwhile, from filters to image-manipulation techniques, allow users not only to edit images but to “drastically change” them.205 This, in turn can produce what the Royal Society for Public Health described as a “compare and despair” attitude: “Individuals may view heavily photo-shopped, edited or staged photographs and videos and compare them to their seemingly mundane lives”.206

As Sienna explained:

When you make your own profile, you pick your nice images that you want to post and you work out how they will look next to each other. That is definitely a positive—that people can use it as the latest art form that everyone can use […] But, yes, it does mean that you are putting forward your most positive side and it means that you don’t think you can recognise your emotions.207

121.A similar theme came through in the YMCA’s ‘Somebody Like Me’ research which indicated that young people’s relationships with social media and messaging platforms can “fuel an on-going internal battle in those trying to keep up with appearance-based ‘ideals’ to gain acceptance from others” with young people becoming “consumed by which photos they put online and the image they portray online”.208 Natasha Devon, a mental health and body image campaigner, described social media as having a “momentous impact [on] young people’s relationship with their bodies”209 while the Nuffield Council on Bioethics pointed to a “growing ‘visual diet’ of appearance-related images” which, it stated, has “been associated with greater unhappiness about appearance, particularly among children and young people”.210

122.The power of celebrities and social media influencers was also highlighted by our witnesses. Dustin Hutchinson from the National Children’s Bureau described how young people:

talked a lot about the fact that a lot of provocative pictures are posted by models and bloggers, which can put pressure on young people to replicate that behaviour and then to view their own self-worth and popularity in terms of how many likes or followers they get.211

123.Sienna, a young person, explained how:

If you are following celebrities, models or people that society aspires to, then even if it is not a conscious effort that you want to look like them, it is just something that gradually, over time, is ingrained into you and you think the tall, slim model is something that you want to be.212

124.Students from schools across the Leicester West constituency similarly explained that, while they knew it was “unrealistic to think you can look like or have the same life as a celebrity”, it was increasingly “hard not to make comparisons when so much […] of their time is now spent online”.213 Despite the increasing awareness of the harmful effects of promoting certain body images and ‘ideals’ in traditional media, the OECD noted that there has been “limited research of the effect of promoting a narrow range of body images on social media”.214

Promoting harmful information and behaviours

125.Linked to body image was the promotion of harmful information and/or unhealthy behaviours via social media and other websites. David Austin from the British Board of Film Classification highlighted how its large-scale public consultation—asking the public what issues concern them in film content, video content and on websites—had indicated clear concerns “about depictions of pro-anorexic content, self-harm and suicide”.215

126.Natasha Devon emphasised that, in her experience, self-harm was one of the “fastest-growing mental health issues in people aged under 21”. The feedback she received from young people was that occasionally “the internet has taught them how to self-harm—they have found instructional articles on pro-self-harm websites”.216 She went on to stress, however, that it was “not the reason they are doing it in the first place” and questioned whether too much focus had been placed on the role of social media:

My belief is that by focusing so much on social media as a cause we can sometimes take our eye off other things. Anxiety and self-harm in particular have risen dramatically since 2010. When you look at what happened in 2010 in terms of the effects that austerity has had on families, we know there is a link between poverty and poor mental health.217

127.The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Mental Health, Inequalities and Suicide Prevention, Jackie Doyle-Price MP, similarly reflected that there was a complex range of factors that led to a person taking their own life. Though she was “very concerned about online content being a driver for that”, she acknowledged that to “say that it is down to one thing or another is quite difficult”, adding that while “we can all come to conclusions and think anecdotally of examples, but we really need the evidence.”218

Next steps

128.This Chapter has set out the some of benefits and harms linked to social media that we have heard about during our inquiry. While there is no ‘silver bullet’ response that will minimise the harms while amplifying the benefits, several suggestions were made to us about possible next steps. Yih-Choung Teh from Ofcom was very clear that, what had previously worked well in broadcasting was “Parliament setting some high-level objectives for the problem we are trying to address”. These, he suggested, should be “principles-based so that there can be adaptability”, partly because social norms change over time.219 Karim Palant from Facebook similarly stated that a “principles-based approach was needed […] where you start with the harm you are trying to tackle”.220

129.When asked what the principles should be, Yih-Choung Teh suggested that, based on Ofcom’s research, the “protection of children [was] a very large concern for society as a whole”.221 Speaking to the Lords Communication Committee, Tony Stower from the NSPCC also focused on the protection of children, stating that “if we are talking about principles-based regulation, the first principle would be that services that are open to children should be safe for children to use in the first place”.222

130.It appears that the Government is also considering a principles-based approach. Giving evidence to the DCMS Committee in October 2018, the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, Rt Hon Jeremy Wright MP, confirmed that:

one of the reasons the White Paper is taking the time it is taking, is that it needs to address the whole spectrum of online harm and that is a wide spectrum […] we start with the White Paper, we work through the principles, we set out in the White Paper the approach we think we need to take to that spectrum of harm, legal and illegal, and then follow through with legislation.223

131.Our inquiry has illuminated the broad spectrum of benefits, risks and harms that children and young people may encounter via social media and screen-use. While social media and screen-use is not necessarily creating these risks, it has, in numerous cases, amplified them. Initiatives are in place to address some of these harms—notably around cyberbullying—yet others are falling through the cracks. A comprehensive, joined-up approach to address the plethora of negative effects is needed.

132.Underpinning the Government’s forthcoming White Paper, and subsequent legislation, should be the principle that children must, as far as practicably possible, be protected from harm when accessing and using social media sites. All the physical and mental health harms we have outlined in this chapter—including cyberbullying, grooming, child abuse and child sexual exploitation (CSE), ‘self-generated’ images and ‘sexting’, the live streaming of CSE, violence, hate speech and pornography—should be covered.

We discuss a proposed way forward in Chapter 5.

64 Professor Andrew Przybylski, Netta Weinstein and Amy Orben (SMH0140)

65 OECD, PISA 2015 Results (Volume III): Students’ well-being, (Paris, 2017)

67 YoungMinds and The Children’s Society (SMH0146)

68 ibid

69 techUK (SMH0142)

70 Q4 [Dustin Hutchinson]

71 Anti-Bullying Alliance (SMH0102)

72 Professor Andrew Przybylski, Netta Weinstein and Amy Orben (SMH0140); Amanda Lenhart, Aaron Smith, Monica Anderson, Maeve Duggan and Andrew Perrin, Teens Technology & Friendships, Pew Research Centre, 6 August 2015.

73 The Royal Society for Public Health (SMH0127)

74 Girlguiding (SMH0059)

75 Girlguiding (SMH0059)

76 Student, The Castle School, Thornbury (SMH0065)

77 Revealing Reality (SMH0144); EMLS RI (SMH0141); Q454

78 Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (SMH0155); Bristol Safeguarding Children’s Board - E-Safety Working Group (SMH0087)

79 Big Lottery Fund (SMH0159)

80 YoungMinds and The Children’s Society (SMH0146)

81 Q109 [Professor Przybylski]

82 UK Research and Innovation (SMH0151)

83 The Royal Society for Public Health (SMH0127)

85 Barnardo’s (SMH0148)

86 Sonia Livingstone, “Online risk, harm and vulnerability: reflections on the evidence base for child Internet safety policy”. ZER: Journal of Communication Studies, vol 18 (2013). pp. 13–28

87 Ofcom, Children and parents media use and attitudes: annex 1 Children’s research annex, January 2019, p123

88 Daniel Kardefelt-Winther, How does the time children spend using digital technology impact their mental well-being, social relationships and physical activity? An evidence-focused literature review. Innocenti Discussion Paper 2017–02, UNICEF Office of Research – Innocenti, Florence, p11

89 Vaughan Bell, Dorothy V M Bishop, Andrew K Przybylski, “The debate over digital technology and young people” BMJ 2015; 351:h3064

91 Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (SMH0156); See also Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (SMH0156). See also Neza Stiglic and Russell M Viner “Effects of screentime on the health and well-being of children and adolescents: a systematic review of reviews” BMJ Open (2019) doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2018–023191

92 Daniel Kardefelt-Winther. How does the time children spend using digital technology impact their mental well-being, social relationships and physical activity? An evidence-focused literature review. Innocenti Discussion Paper 2017–02, UNICEF Office of Research – Innocenti, Florence, p20

93 Q421 [Jack]

94 Q421 [Becca]

95 The Royal Society for Public Health (SMH0127)

96 Jeremy J Walsh, Joel D Barnes, Jameason D Cameron et al, “Associations between 24 hour movement behaviours and global cognition in US children: a cross-sectional observational study”, The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health, vol 2 (2018), pp 783–791

97 ibid

98 Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (SMH0156)

99 Professor Andrew Przybylski, Netta Weinstein and Amy Orben (SMH0140)

102 ibid

103 Angela Christie (SMH0168); Electrosensitivity UK (SMH0158); Dr Annelie Fitzgerald (SMH0076); Dave Ashton (SMH0126); Miss Debra Lynne Fry (SMH0092); Lynne Wycherley (SMH0106)

104 Public Health England, Wi-fi radio waves and health guidance, 1 November 2013; Health effects from Radiofrequency Electromagnetic Fields, Report of the independent Advisory Group on Non-ionising Radiation, April 2012

105 Health effects from Radiofrequency Electromagnetic Fields, Report of the independent Advisory Group on Non-ionising Radiation, April 2012, p4

106 Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (SMH0156)

108 Sonia Livingstone, New ‘screen time’ rules from the American Academy of Pediatrics, LSE Media Policy Project Blog, 24 October 2016

109 Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (SMH0156)

112 Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, The health impacts of screen time - a guide for clinicians and parents, Health Policy Team, January 2019

113 Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, The health impacts of screen time - a guide for clinicians and parents, Health Policy Team, January 2019

116 Office for National Statistics, More children using social media report mental ill-health symptoms, 20 October 2015

119 Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (SMH0156)

120 Andrew K. Przybylski and Netta Weinstein, “Large-Scale Test of the Goldilocks Hypothesis: Quantifying the Relations Between Digital-Screen Use and the Mental Well-Being of Adolescents”, Psychological Science, Vol. 28 (2017) pp 204–215

121 Internet Matters (SMH0080)

122 British Board of Film Classification (SMH0162)

123 ibid

125 Girlguiding (SMH0059)

126 UK Safer Internet Centre (SMH0110). See also Elena Martellozzo, Andy Monaghan, Joanna R Adler, Julia Davidson, Rodolfo Leyva and Miranda AH Horvath, I wasn’t sure it was normal to watch it, A quantitative and qualitative examination of the impact of online pornography on the values, attitudes, beliefs and behaviours of children and young people, revised May 2017. In addition 22% reported having online pornography shown to them by someone else without asking for/expecting it, and a further 22% searched for it on their own.

127 UK Safer Internet Centre (SMH0110)

128 Facebook (SMH0153)

129 Web giants ‘drive violence’, The Times, 31 March 2018

131 ibid

133 Bristol Safeguarding Children’s Board - E-Safety Working Group (SMH0087)

137 David Jones (SMH0169)

138 Institute of Alcohol Studies (SMH0164). See also ASH and UKCTAS (SMH0132).

139 ibid

143 ‘Grooming’ has been defined as a process of socialisation through which an adult engages with and manipulates a child or young person for the purpose of online sexual abuse.

147 UK Safer Internet Centre (SMH0110)

149 ibid

154 Tackling child sexual exploitation online, News Story,, 3 September 2018

155 Guardian Saints CIC (SMH0022)

156 Barnardo’s (SMH0134)

157 NSPCC (SMH0174)

159 ibid

160 NSPCC (SMH0174)

167 Liz Kendall MP (SMH0179)

170 Tech giants ‘could stop child porn if they wanted to’, The Daily Telegraph, 1 October 2018

176 Paedophiles grooming children live on YouTube, The Times, Monday 10 December 2018, pages 1 and 4

177 Keeping our children safe, Speech given by Rt Hon Sajid Javid MP, Speech at NSPCC headquarters, London, 3 September 2018

178 News story - Tackling child sexual exploitation online,, 3 September 2018. The call was led by the Joint Security and Resilience Centre in partnership with Innovate UK, under the Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI) and closed on 18 November 2018

180 Barnardo’s (SMH0148)

181 Barnardo’s (SMH0148)

182 Emily Frith, Social media and children’s mental health: a review of the evidence, Education Policy Institute, June 2017

183 HM Government, Internet Safety Strategy – Green paper, October 2017, p50

184 Anti-Bullying Alliance (SMH0102)

185 Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (SMH0180)

186 Ibid

188 Ibid; see also Petitions Committee, First Special Report of Session 2017–19, Online abuse and the experience of disabled people: draft recommendations for consultation, HC 1459

189 Mental Health of Children and Young People in England, 2017 Behaviours, lifestyles and identities, NHS Digital, November 2018

191 UK Research and Innovation (SMH0151)

192 Dr Andrew K Przybylski & Lucy Bowes, Cyberbullying and adolescent well-being in England: a population-based cross-sectional study, The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health Vol 1 (2017), pp19–26,

194 Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (SMH0180)

195 Anti-Bullying Alliance (SMH0102)

200 Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (SMH0180)

203 Facebook (SMH0153); The Diana Award (SMH0119)

204 Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (SMH0155)

205 Barnardo’s (SMH0148)

206 The Royal Society for Public Health (SMH0127)

208 YMCA England & Wales (SMH0108)

210 Nuffield Council on Bioethics (SMH0079)

213 `Liz Kendall MP (SMH0179)

223 Oral evidence taken before the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee on 24 October 2018, HC (2017–19) 361, Qq225–230 [Rt Hon Jeremy Wright MP]

Published: 31 January 2019