Following last year’s University College London report that one in four teenage girls experienced depression, and the latest data showing a 31 per cent increase in young children receiving psychiatric treatment, Chief Medical Officer Dame Sally Davies is to review the impact of technology on children’s mental health with a view to recommending daily ‘healthy screen time’ limits.
Ministers are also considering laws to punish social media firms that allow flagrant breaches of age limits, accusing companies such as Facebook, supposedly restricted to those aged 13 and over, of ‘turning a blind eye to a generation of children being exposed to harm’. Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt told them that their failure to prevent young children from using social media was ‘unacceptable and irresponsible’.
Can this be the same Department of Health that for more than 30 years has facilitated the sexual abuse of children by teaching them to regard sexual activity as normal? It provides no-questions-asked contraception, the morning-after pill, abortion and long-term contraception – effectively sterilisation – to girls as young as 12. If spending too much time on the internet is bad for children, how much more damage is being done to their mental health by being sexually groomed in the classroom by trusted adults and abused by untrustworthy adults, while child protection professionals turn a blind eye to their plight? Parents have been deliberately excluded from government policy in this area.
Voluntary age limits on websites can be evaded by the simple expedient of lying, but children seeking help at ‘family planning’ clinics do not even have to lie about their age. We have a law on the age of consent that successive governments have ignored on the basis that ‘they’re going to do it anyway’.
Mr Hunt and his colleagues seem genuinely concerned about the dangers of social media. If only they could put as much energy into protecting children from paedophile gangs. Sadly, this new drive to protect children from harm in the virtual world may prove to be no more than a gigantic distraction exercise to divert public attention from the Government’s failure to protect children from serious harm in the real world.