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NAHT gives evidence to select committee on impact of social media on children

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NAHT’s senior policy advisor, Sarah Hannafin, was invited to give evidence to the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee on 16 October. The Committee is considering the impact of social media and screen use on young people’s health.

Giving evidence alongside Will Gardner, Director of the UK Safer Internet Centre, in a session that immediately followed a hearing with representatives of Google, Facebook and Twitter, Sarah was keen to set out NAHT’s view that schools have a key role to play in educating children about online safety, but they are only one part of the wider picture.

Sarah said: “We welcome the new compulsory sex and relationship and health education curriculum, which includes some really good guidance on teaching primary and secondary children about keeping themselves safe online, as well as talking to them about how too much screen use can impact on their physical and mental health. It’s an important and wide-ranging subject and it’s right that all children are entitled to this education.

“But schools can only ever be part of the picture when it comes to keeping children safe online. Parents and families, social media and gaming companies, the government, and wider society all have an impact on children’s social media and online habits, and all have a responsibility to do what they can to protect children online.”

Sarah went on to discuss whether mobile phone bans are a good idea for schools, saying: “Mobile phone bans certainly work for some schools but there isn’t one policy that will work for all schools. Outright banning mobile phones can cause more problems than it solves, driving phone use ‘underground’ and making problems less visible and obvious for schools to tackle. Ultimately, schools work to prepare young people for the outside world, giving them the awareness and strategies to responsibly monitor their own screen use and the ability to identify and deal with any negative impacts or problematic content they encounter.”

You can watch a recording of Sarah giving evidence here.

First published 20 June 2019