The Royal College of Psychiatrists (RCPsych) has advised psychiatrists to account for the impact of social media on children during their assessment for mental health issues.
The leading body of psychiatrists recommends that questions about technology should be routinely included in paediatric assessments, as mounting evidence suggests possible links between harmful content or excessive online activity and poor mental health. RCPysch's advice comes in the wake of an expected Government announcement to introduce an independent regulator who will enforce a new statutory code of conduct on social media companies.
Psychiatrists are being advised to consider the following factors:
- Harmful online content could negatively influence an existing mental illness, such as pictures of self-harm and those promoting eating disorders.
- Unrestrained use of technology could be associated with sleep disturbances, poor academic performance, low mood and behavioural or eating disorders.
- Existing conditions, including depression or eating disorders, could make children more likely to spend excessive time online or utilise technology in a harmful manner.
Dr Bernadka Dubicka, Chair of RCPsych's child and adolescent faculty, said: "Although we recognise that social media and technology are not primary drivers of mental illness in young people, we know that they are an important part of their lives and can be harmful in some situations."