Young Minds have issued a report, Putting a stop to the endless scroll, on urgent changes needed to ensure the Online Safety Bill can protect young people’s mental health. To mark Children’s Mental Health week, My Mind News shares the alarming takeaways from this report.
What is the Online Safety Bill?
The key objective of the Online Safety Bill is “to make the UK the safest place in the world to be online while defending free expression.” The UK will become one of the few countries to introduce laws to protect online users.
The Bill is designed to make social media companies responsible for users’ safety on their platforms and thus protect children and adults online.
The Bill has courted many controversies and many views that this Bill has been watered down while making it legislation. Many also fear that the Bill will prevent freedom of speech and work against us. This Bill gives us an opportunity to put measures in place to protect us all, never mind our most vulnerable users, children, and young people.
However, many fear that the UK government members are not listening and have been hugely influenced by technology and media companies.
According to Ofcom (The UK Office of Communications, a regulatory body supervising the communications industry), the Bill is expected to be passed in early 2023 and will become legislation two months later.
Who is YoungMinds?
YoungMinds is a leading UK charity for children and young people’s mental health. It has quickly become a powerful voice and advocate in providing resources, support, and lobbying the government to do the right thing for children and young adults.
YoungMind’s purpose is “To stop young people’s mental health from reaching crisis point,.” Its mission is ”to make sure all young people can get the mental health support they need, when they need it, no matter what.”
In 2020, it launched their three-year strategy titled “You Matter,” which focused on three strategic programs to deliver their mission.
Teenage mental health is in crisis.
As reported by My Mind News, teenage mental health is in crisis. We can no longer ignore this. The main drivers of this mental health crisis are caused by how young people are experiencing the online world, including social media.
Hard Fact – the online world is here to stay and is embedded into our way of life, there are many benefits, but there are also risks. Risks that our young people are not fully aware of but will erode their mental health.
These risks include psychological and physical effects such as harmful algorithms, detrimental and excess content, cyberbullying, and sophisticated neuromarketing strategies, culminating in the need to get a dopamine fix, feeding this addiction, and poor wellbeing.
Key findings and recommendations from the report
YoungMinds published its report “Putting a stop to the endless scroll. How the Online Safety Bill can protect young people’s mental health” last week. This report is the outcome of extensive research carried out into three areas that are causing young people the most concern.
In summary, what young people want and need from this new Bill are vital considerations such as design, education, and consultation, which should be perfectly achievable but may be too late to embed into this new Bill.
Following this research, YoungMinds have four key recommendations and urgent changes they seek from the Bill.
The first recommendation concerns the duty of care toward the health and wellbeing of all online users. The second urges more scrutiny of Ofcom and independent bodies, including transparency of child risk assessments and supporting research and declarations of any platform changes.
The third relates to the obligation of the government to ensure relevant and compelling media education for media literacy for children and young people, so they understand their online behaviors and know how to control and manage these.
And finally, recommendation four relates to more consultation with children and young people in the provisions set out in the Bill and other legislation. Young Minds strongly recommends creating a Youth Online Safety Advisory Committee to facilitate this recommendation.
YoungMinds is calling on the Government to act
Back in December, YoungMinds reported that “a third of young people feel trapped on social media” and, at this time, called on politicians to strengthen the Bill. Olly Parker, Head of External Affairs at YoungMinds reinforces the message that confirms that –
“it is deeply concerning that the Online Safety Bill has been watered down when young people’s experiences online are such a pressing issue and so many situations are ending in tragedy because of it. The most recent announcements undermine the key tenets of the Bill, which are around what content is harmful or illegal. We want to see the Bill restructured so that a duty of care to users, and especially to young people, is at its heart. Right now, in this new weaker Bill, the mental health and wellbeing of young people feels like an afterthought It is clear that many young people find content on social media harmful, so it is completely unacceptable that they are routinely served this kind of content.”
In a matter of months, this new Bill will be made law, and little consideration and consultation have taken place with children and young adults to fully understand the enormous physical and psychological burden the online world has on their mental health.
Is this the modern-day tobacco epidemic where we will look back in years to come and wonder why we failed to take action despite being surrounded with so much research and insight and knowing that this media contains addictive algorithms, and this Bill does not ban or limit them?
We cannot ignore the future impact of this watered-down Bill, and My Mind News back the YoungMinds campaign and each one of its recommendations.