This post has been updated after Facebook changed its policies Feb. 7.
After the UK’s health secretary Matt Hancock told tech companies to clean their platforms from content containing self-harm, threatening regulation, Adam Mosseri, Instagram’s head, announced the app would roll out “sensitivity screens” that would block images and videos of people cutting themselves.
Both moves come after the father of a 14-year-old girl in the UK said that he believed that Instagram contributed to his daughter’s 2017 suicide. “I have been deeply moved by the tragic stories that have come to light this past month of Molly Russell and other families affected by suicide and self-harm,” Mosseri wrote in an op-ed for The Telegraph on Monday (Feb. 4).
The Health Secretary has told Facebook and other social media firms to purge their sites of self-harm and suicide material
Social media giants have been told by the Health Secretary to purge their sites of self-harm and suicide material, or face legislation.
Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, has this weekend written to social media bosses warning them that action is “urgently” needed to ensure they do not breach the policies of internet providers.
In the letter, Mr Hancock expresses his growing concern over harmful content online, and states it is “appalling” how easy it is to access content that “leads to self harm and promotes suicide”.
The letter, sent to corporate leaders at Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, Pinterest, Google and Apple, comes just days after father Ian Russell spoke out about how Instagram “helped” to kill his 14-year-old daughter, Molly.
Social media firms could be banned if they fail to remove harmful content, the health secretary has warned.
Speaking on the BBC's Andrew Marr show, Matt Hancock said: "If we think they need to do things they are refusing to do, then we can and we must legislate."
But he said it would be better to work jointly with social media companies.
The minister earlier called on social media giants to "purge" material promoting self-harm and suicide in the wake of links to a teenager's suicide.
Asked if social media could be banned, Mr Hancock said: "Ultimately parliament does have that sanction, yes" but added: "it's not where I'd like to end up."
Molly Russell, 14, took her own life in 2017 after viewing disturbing content about suicide on social media.
Speaking to the BBC, her father said he believed Instagram "helped kill my daughter".
Mr Russell also criticised the online scrapbook Pinterest, telling the Sunday Times: "Pinterest has a huge amount to answer for."
Instagram responded by saying it works with expert groups who advise them on the "complex and nuanced" issues of mental health and self-harm.
SUICIDE WEB CALL
Social media sites urged to remove 'like' button over child online safety fears
Facebook head Mark Zuckerberg has been criticised over his plans to combine his three messaging Apps as it would make it easier for paedophiles to target lots of youngsters at once
Today the United Kingdom Chief Medical Officers (CMO) have released new evidence-based guidelines on screentime and social media for children and young people (CYP). The full guidelines can be downloaded here, and a summary infographic in jpg and pdf can be found below
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Social media firms face being banned if they do not tackle harmful content, the health secretary has warned after 30 families accused technology giants of having a role in their children’s suicides.
Matt Hancock said: “If we think [social media companies] need to do things they are refusing to do, then we can and we must legislate.” Asked on The Andrew Marr Show on BBC One if that meant imposing extra taxes or banning them, he said: “Ultimately parliament does have that sanction, yes.”
The family of Molly Russell, 14, who died in 2017, discovered that she had been shown material on social media linked to anxiety, depression, self-harm and suicide. Her father, Ian, has said that he has “no doubt that Instagram helped kill…
3,988 kids aged nine to 17 were taken to hospital with self-harm injuries last year
Doctors believe teens are being influenced by posts on sites like Facebook and Instagram which glorify self-injury.
A report from MPs warns kids glued to Facebook, Instagram and YouTube are more than twice as likely to suffer from mental health issues
SOCIAL media addiction should be considered a medical disorder, suggest MPs.
A report warns kids glued to Facebook, Instagram and YouTube are more than twice as likely to suffer from mental health issues.
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GLOVES ARE OFF
Jeremy Wright told Mark Zuckerberg that Britain has 'reached a turning point' and that adding new laws is the only way to beat self-harm content
THE Culture Secretary told Mark Zuckerberg to his face that the UK government would become the first in the world to introduce a legal crackdown on Facebook’s harmful content.
Writing in today’s Sun, Jeremy Wright explains how he told Mr Zuckerberg at a meeting at Facebook’s officers in San Francisco in February that Britain had “reached a turning point” over its failure to act.
There should be official guidelines about how social media is used by children amid fears over how it impacts their mental health, says the Health and Social Care Secretary.
Matt Hancock said he was "very worried" by the growing evidence of the detrimental effect on the health of young people.
He has told Dame Sally Davies, the UK's chief medical officer, to begin preparing official guidance on safe time limits that would work in a similar way to safe alcohol limits.
While there are no official time limit guidelines on social media, a study last year found watching television for more than three hours each day is associated with poorer language skills in 11-year-old children.
:: Tips to prevent too much social media use and use it safely
Children who spend more than two hours a day looking at a screen have worse memory, language skills and attention span, a landmark study has found.
The research, which involved children aged between eight and 11 found that those with higher amounts of recreational screen time on smart phones and playing video games had far worse cognitive skills across a range of functions.
The research, published by the Lancet Child and Adolescent Health, tracked the daily habits of 4,500 children who were then asked to carry out detailed cognition tests.
The study found that more than two hours a day of recreational screen time was associated with worse working memory, processing speed, attention levels, language skills and executive function.
The study of US children, led by the University of Ottawa, questioned thousands of parents and children on their daily habits - including time spent sleeping, using smartphones and other devices, and levels of physical activity.
Overall cognition skills were best among the one in 20 children who got between nine to 11 hours sleep, less than two hours recreational screen time, and at least an hour’s exercise daily.
These children did around five per cent better in the tests than the average child. Significantly, the study isolated screen time as the likely key factor. Children who were glued to their screens for less than two hours a day saw performance around four per cent better than the average among their group, regardless of other habits.
Mobile phones should be banned from the dinner table and bedtimes as part of a healthy approach to devices, the UK's four chief medical officers have said.
Children should also take a break from screen-based activities every two hours, the government advisers said.
And they added industry must do more to keep children safe.
Their guidance comes as English Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, is set to meet bosses at Instagram over the handling of self-harm and suicide content.
Links have been made between the suicide of teenager Molly Russell and her exposure to harmful material on Instagram.
Her father has said he believes the Facebook-owned platform "helped kill my daughter".
The World Health Organisation says babies and toddlers should avoid any screen time until the age of two
WHO suggests a 60-minute limit for children aged between two and five years old
Toddlers and young children should have no more than one hour of screen time per day, according to new international advice.
World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines, published on Wednesday, suggest a 60-minute limit for those aged between two and five years old.
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It also recommends babies and toddlers avoid any sedentary screen time - including watching TV or sitting still playing games on devices - until the age of two.
The guidance, designed to help national policy makers, also includes advice on physical activity and sleep among under-fives.
"For the greatest health benefits, infants and young children should meet all the recommendations for physical activity, sedentary behaviour, and sleep in a 24-hour period," the report states.
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