Mental health of children and young people at risk in digital age

On Wednesday MPs warned that the mental health of children and young people is at risk due to violent video games and sharing of indecent images. The view comes about as a significant increase in self harm and psychological problems of under-18’s is reported.

Cyberbullying and websites advocating anorexia and self-harm are also posing a danger to the mental wellbeing of children and young people, the Commons health select committee says 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. For some young people it’s clearly a new source of stress.”

However, the MPs said they had found no evidence that the emerging digital culture was behind the worrying rise, of up to 25% to 30% a year, in numbers of children and young people seeking treatment for mental health problems.

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 encourages self-harming behaviour.”