a boy wearing grey hoodie using his mobile phone while sitting on the ground leaning on a tree

Released 19 April 2022 Online Safety Bill second reading

As the Online Safety Bill goes to its second reading today, mental health charity YoungMinds is calling on the Government to force social media companies to take action on the addictive effects of their platforms on young people. The charity found more than a third (34%) of young people want to leave social media sites at least once a week but feel like they can’t.

YoungMinds found more than a fifth of young people (22%) are automatically shown distressing content by social media platforms, based on their previous online activity, at least once a week. 

This research, carried out with 2,000 16-24-year-olds both with and without mental health problems, also revealed that many find social media helpful for their mental wellbeing.

The vast majority of young people use social media to talk about mental health, with one in three doing so every week or every day.

In a further survey that YoungMinds conducted directly, nearly all the young people surveyed (89%) agreed to some extent that social media helps drive harmful behaviours. This survey also confirmed the difficulty of leaving social media, with nearly half (42%) displaying early signs of addictive behaviour.

Responding to the publication of the Bill and the data, Emma Thomas, Chief Executive of YoungMinds, said:

“It is completely unacceptable that young people are routinely shown harmful content. We are concerned that young people’s views have not been given significant enough weight in this legislative process and this must urgently be addressed as the Bill progresses.

“Young people tell us they want the Government to listen to their experiences online. We need to know more about what young people find distressing, as well as the positive parts of social media that they want to protect.

“It is clear that many young people find content on social media harmful, so companies do not need to wait for this legislation to take action now to make these platforms safer. There is no excuse to delay.”
Emma Thomas, Chief Executive of YoungMinds
“It's social media companies that are causing the problem so if they actually cared, they would do something to actually discourage you from it. They've got all of these people like working for them to understand psychology and know what the scrolling experience is like; they are building the sites in such a way to make it something that people want to do, so they could just work at the other way but they choose not to."
Charlie, 23 (they/them), who is helping shape YoungMinds’ work on the legislation

  1. The initial survey was carried out by research company Censuswide, with 2,002 16-24 year olds in the UK nationally representative of gender from 12 January 2022 – 20 January 2022. Censuswide abides by and employs members of the Market Research Society which is based on the ESOMAR principles.
  2. The independent survey carried out by YoungMinds included nearly 1,500 young people aged 11-25 in the UK. Alongside this, we also held two workshops with a diverse group of young people, designed to explore what factors shape young people’s experiences of the online world.
  3. YoungMinds is the UK’s leading charity fighting for young people’s mental health. For more information please visit youngminds.org.uk

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    For free advice and support for parents, call our helpline on 0808 802 5544