MPs to grill social media firms

Written by Peter Walker

The Science and Technology Committee is set to investigate the impact of social media and screen use on young people’s health.

The group of MPs has called a meeting for 16 October, inviting Facebook UK public policy manager Karim Palant, Google’s lead on child safety for EMEA Claire Lilley, and Twitter’s vice president of public policy and communications for EMEA Sinéad McSweeney.

The committee will also speak to Will Gardner, director for the UK Safer Internet Centre, and Sarah Hannafin, senior policy adviser for the National Association of Head Teachers.

“The committee hears from the major social media companies and consider how they handle reports of inappropriate content, what steps they are taking to swiftly remove illegal content and their response to proposals to regulate their operations,” read a statement.

The Education Policy Institute has reported that 95 per cent of UK 15 year olds use social media before or after school, and half of 9-16 year olds used smart-phones on a daily basis. The Children’s Commissioner has found that children aged 8-12 find it hard to manage the impact of social media.

The Royal Society for Public Health’s 2017 report called for action to promote the positive aspects of social media for young people, whilst mitigating the potential negatives, while one recent US study reported that the presence of smartphones damages cognitive capacity and more than one in 10 children developed high blood pressure from excessive screen time.

Another report from the Children’s Commissioner called for action to “broaden digital literacy education beyond safety messages”, for parents to be informed about how to “support children to use social media in a positive way”, to “improve teachers’ knowledge about the impacts of social media on children’s well-being” and for social media companies to “do more to address underage use”.