Cover image: Is social media harmful to today's young citizens?

Is social media harmful to today's young citizens?

Young Citizens is an education charity working in primary and secondary schools to help educate, inspire and motivate the active citizens of tomorrow. Education Manager Naomi Kennedy, writes about the impact of social media on the mental health of young people today. I was recently asked by a friend at what age would I allow my children to have a social media profile?  My boys are just three and 16 months so social media is a little way off for us, but the question certainly got me thinking. Most social media platforms require young people to be 13 in order to have a profile.  With WhatsApp recently raising this age to 16 within the EEA. New General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) legislation places a requirement on such platforms to make reasonable efforts to verify that a parent or guardian has given consent for their child's data to be handled if they are under 16.

But are young people as young as 13 ready for the impact that social media can have on their lives?

The Office for National Statistics has found a “clear association” between longer time spent on social media and mental health problems. In a recent bullying survey 68% of young people reported having received nasty messages online. Whilst, 28% had their private information shared.  These young people talked about the impact this has had on their mental health.  With 41% reporting they had experienced social anxiety and 26% stating they’d had suicidal thoughts.

69% of these young people also admitted they had done something abusive online.

But do they understand the impact their actions can have.  Do they know their rights online?  Their responsibilities?  Have they considered the potential legal ramifications of what they are posting? At Young Citizens we are passionate about supporting teachers to engage their students in these matters.  Giving them the tools they need to support all young people to be safe and responsible online. Our Social Media and the Law resource is currently being offered to schools free of charge.  The lesson provides a full overview of the law regarding social media and challenges young people to test the law in a number of real life scenarios. Download a free copy of the resource We have a number of other resources available via our SmartLaw programme, including:  Cyberbullying and the Law, Sexting and the Law, Human Rights, Discrimination and Police Powers.  Find all the details at Smartlaw is an initiative set up by Young Citizens. Our aim is that all young people will leave school fully understanding their legal rights and responsibilities.  Through our range of high quality, tried and tested classroom resources we inspire young people to engage in the complex world of the law and provide them with the knowledge and skills they need to become legally capable. Blog by Naomi Kennedy