The APPG for Social Media and Young People’s Mental Health and Wellbeing has released a report which recommends the UK government introduce a 0.5% levy on the profits of social media companies.
The money would be used to fund research, and to make and sustain educational tools and clear guidance on protecting children’s health.
As well as the tax itself, the recommended policies would establish a duty of care on all social media companies with registered UK users aged 24 and under. Ofcom would regulate the companies, against a statutory code of conduct.
According to the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH), who acted as the APPG’s secretariat, 80% of the UK public believe that tighter regulation is needed to address the impact of social media on young people’s health.
Children who spend three or more hours on social media a day are currently twice as likely to display symptoms of mental ill health than those who don’t use social media at all, says the RSPH.
Chris Elmore MP, who chairs the APPG, said the proposals are a necessary step to bring the “wild west” of unregulated social media under control.
“It is in this lawless landscape that our children currently work and play online,” he said. “This cannot continue. As the report makes clear, now is the time for the government to take action.”
Shirley Cramer CBE, chief executive of RSPH, agreed that firmer regulations are vital.
“The overarching finding is the need for social media companies to have in place a duty of care to protect vulnerable users and the need for regulation, which would provide much needed health and safety protection for what is a lawless digital playground”, she said.
The report also suggested commissioning further, urgent research to understand the extent to which the impact of social media on young people’s mental health is one of cause or correlation.