Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : November 6th 2014 Contents B28
body & soul
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Thursday, November 6, 2014
and other types of
MPs in the UK
warned this week.
Violent video games, the sharing of indecent
images on mobile phones, and other types of digital
communications are harming young people s mental
health, MPs in the UK warned on Wednesday, amid
evidence of big increases in self-harm and serious
psychological problems among the under-18s.
Cyberbullying and Web sites advocating anorexia
and self-harm are also posing a danger to the mental
wellbeing of children and young people, the Commons
health select committee said in its report.
Sarah Wollaston, chair of the committee, who was
a GP for 24 years before becoming a Tory MP in
2010, said: "In the past if you were being bullied it
might just be in the classroom. Now it follows (you)
way beyond the walk home from school. It is there
all the time.
Voluntary bodies have not suggested stopping
young people using the internet. But for some young
people it s clearly a new source of stress."
Rise in mental health problems among youth
However, the MPs said they had found no evidence
that the emerging digital culture was behind the
worrying rise, of up to 25 per cent to 30 per cent
a year, in numbers of children and young people
seeking treatment for mental health problems.
The cross-party group acknowledges that forms
of online and social communication are now central
to the lives of under-18s, but says that a government
inquiry into the effects is needed because of the
potential for harm.
"For today s children and young people, digital
culture and social media are an integral part of life
... this has the potential to significantly increase
stress and to amplify the effects of bullying," the
committee s report says.
Some young people experience "bullying, harass-
ment and threats of violence" when online, the MPs
say. While they did not look into internet regulation
in depth during their six-month inquiry, they con-
cluded: "In our view sufficient concern has been
raised to warrant a more detailed consideration of
the impact of the internet on children s and young
people s mental health, and in particular the use of
social media and impact of pro-anorexia, self-harm
and other inappropriate websites."
It calls on the Department of Health and NHS
England s joint taskforce, now investigating, alongside
other bodies, to assess the impact of social media.
Wollaston voiced concern that "sexting" (sharing
indecent photographs) could be traumatic for vul-
nerable young women persuaded to pose for intimate
pictures, then finding the shots shared widely. Some
would end up being harassed, she said. Sexting had
"become normalised in some school environments,"
she said. "We need much better education about the
dangers of sexting." She also expressed unease about
the impact of violent video games played by young
people. Parents, she said, should do more to check
what their offspring were doing online in their free
time and talk to them because "if they are spending
two hours a night doing that, is that harming their
Lucie Russell, director of campaigns and media at
the charity Young Minds, said: "The 24/7 online
world has the potential to massively increase young
people s stress levels and multiplies the opportunities
for them to connect with others in similar distress.
Websites like Tumblr, where there has been recent
media focus on self-harm blogs, must do all they
can to limit triggering content and that which encour-
ages self-harming behaviour."
Russell backed the committee s view that the inter-
net could also be "a valuable source of support for
children and young people with mental health prob-
lems". But, she added that "many professionals feel
completely out of touch with, even intimidated by,
social media and the net".
Mental health budget cut
The report paints a grim picture of the growing
number of under-18s needing care, often struggling
to access it, or becoming an inpatient hundreds of
miles from home, as children s and adolescents
mental health services tried to cope with budget cuts,
lack of staff and too few beds.
"Major problems" in accessing services ends with
"children and young people s safety being compro-
mised while they wait for a bed to become available",
say the MPs. (The Guardian, UK)
Sexting, cyber-bullying increase mental
health threats to kids---UK politicians
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