Psychiatrists urged to ask under-18s about social media use

Teenagers will be asked how their social media usage is impacting various areas of their lives. [Photo: Getty]
Teenagers will be asked how their social media usage is impacting various areas of their lives. [Photo: Getty]

Under new guidance NHS psychiatrists are being encouraged to ask under-18s with mental health issues about their social media usage.

The Royal College of Psychiatrists (RCP) suggests that psychiatrists should ask whether using social media is impacting their school work, sleep, eating habits and general mood.

Late last year a study published by NHS digital revealed that 11-19 year olds who suffer from mental health issues are more likely to use social media every day.

Since then, mounting pressure has been put on the government to announce plans to regulate social media companies. It was due to publish a white paper setting out regulations this month. However, it was postponed after fears it wouldn’t receive enough media attention because of Brexit.

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The new guidelines from the RCP set out clear guidelines. This includes recommending that children avoid using technology at mealtimes and stop using their mobile phones at least an hour before they go to bed.

During the mental health assessment, parents will also be asked what devices their children use. Other questions include how long they spend on them and whether or not they are allowed to look at their phones during mealtimes and downtime.

It’s the first time the RCP has set out guidance of this kind. It will ask psychiatrists to look out for a range of signs when assessing under-18s.

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Psychiatrists will consider whether the child has access to content that is impacting their current condition. An example of this includes content promoting eating disorders if a child is suffering from one themselves.

Other considerations include looking at how sleeping habits are being impacted by time spent on mobile phones, as well as how it relates to school performance, low moods and mood swings and eating habits.

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