Investigate impact of social media on children’s mental health, say MSPs

The effect of social media on children’s mental health should be investigated, the Scottish Government has been told.

Holyrood’s public audit committee heard it was a key issue but that there was a lack of research on the impact it was having.

In a report by the committee released on Wednesday, MSPs called on the Scottish Government to commission a study, adding that it was “required as an essential element of preventive action and early intervention”.

MSPs were also concerned by Audit Scotland’s claim that the mental health services available were “complex and fragmented”.

MSPs said that the lack of basic data on mental health services for young people left them unable to know whether Scotland’s public services were making any difference to the rising number of referrals.

Over the last five years, mental health referrals for children and young people have increased by 22 per cent, with 33,270 referrals being made in 2017/18.

Public Audit Committee convener Jenny Marra MSP said: “It is clear that the performance and provision of mental health services require urgent and significant improvement.

“The absence of basic data in relation to a whole range of factors in mental health provision for children means that it is not possible to say whether public spending is making a difference to young people’s mental health.”

Scottish Labour Party Photocall
Public Audit Committee convener Jenny Marra MSP (David Cheskin/PA)

Ms Marra concluded: “Our committee recognises that there is much to be done to transform children and young people’s mental health services, to ensure that all those who are at risk get the care and support that they need as quickly as possible.

“The committee recognises that this transformation will require a commitment across the public sector.

“As noted in our parliamentary report, we intend to follow up the implementation of Audit Scotland’s recommendations to see if the Scottish Government and partners are making the recommended changes.”

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