Social media: How can we protect its youngest users?


Children searching for content relating to depression and self-harm can be exposed to more of it by the recommendation engines built in to social networks.

Sophie Parkinson was just 13 when she took her own life. She had depression and suicidal thoughts.

Her mother, Ruth Moss, believes Sophie eventually took her own life because of the videos she had watched online.

Like many youngsters, Sophie was given a phone when she was 12.

Ruth recalls discovering soon after that Sophie had been using it to view inappropriate material online.

“The really hard bit for the family after Sophie’s death was finding some really difficult imagery and guides to how she could take her own life,” she says.

Almost 90% of 12 to 15-year-olds have a mobile phone, according to the communications watchdog Ofcom. And it estimates that three-quarters of those have a social media account.

The most popular apps restrict access to under-13s but many younger children sign up and the platforms do little to stop them.

The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) thinks the tech firms should be forced by law to think about the risks children face on their products.

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