Social media companies such as Facebook, Snapchat and Twitter have been accused of failing to protect young people from harassment after a cyberbullying inquiry found that online abuse severely affects their mental health.
Almost half of young people have experienced threatening, intimidating or abusive messages on social media, pushing some to the verge of suicide in the most extreme cases, according to a survey commissioned by the Children’s Society and YoungMinds.
Sixty-two percent of respondents were under 18 and three-quarters were female. The findings were based on oral and written evidence from young people – including an online survey of 1,089 children, social media companies, mental health experts and children’s charities.
Respondents said they felt let down by social media platforms, and wanted companies to take tougher action against cyberbullying, including banning abusive users.
The children’s charities have recommended that social media companies pilot approaches to identify children using their platforms, and to gain explicit parental consent for under-13s. They said the government should require social media firms to publish data on their responses to reports of online #bullying, which the inquiry found to be “inadequate”.
“You kind of expect to experience it: nasty comments on the selfie, Facebook posts and Twitter posts, people screen grabbing your Snapchat story to laugh about it … I feel like it’s something people don’t take seriously. But leaving just one nasty comment could really hurt someone,” a 15-year-old girl told the inquiry.
“Social media companies should take complaints more seriously. If someone reports something, they shouldn’t take days to review it, they should literally just remove it straight away. The reaction from adults is just delete your account to stop the bullying, but that’s taking something away from that young person’s life for something that’s not their fault,” she added.