Two thirds of young adults expect to benefit as first ever Scroll Free September kicks off tomorrow

Across the UK, thousands of social media users are gearing up for the start of the first ever mass-participation social media-free month, Scroll Free September, which kicks off tomorrow (1 September 2018).

The campaign, organised by the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) and sponsored by Silentnight, asks people to give up or cut back use of their personal social media accounts, such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, for one month, with the intention that the experience will have a positive impact on mental health and wellbeing.

Participants can choose to go completely Cold Turkey, or just stop using social media at selected times, such as in the bedroom or at social events, while other phone use such as instant messaging is still allowed.

Based on public polling, RSPH estimates that as many 320,000 people in the UK may be planning on taking part in the inaugural campaign. However, the campaign has also attracted widespread international interest, with participants from 56 countries across five continents already signed up to receive tips and advice through the official campaign website.

Polling carried out on behalf of RSPH on the eve of the campaign also found that:

  • More than a third (34%) of 25-34 year olds who have heard of the campaign plan to take part.
  • More than a third (34%) of the public think taking part would have a positive impact on them personally, rising to almost two thirds (63%) of 18-24 year olds.
  • More than two in five 18-24 year olds (41%) think their parents would benefit from taking part, while more than half (55%) think their siblings would benefit.
  • More than a third (35%) of people in a relationship, as well as almost half (45%) of 25-34 year olds, think their partner would benefit from taking part.
  • Among the 10 most followed celebrities on social media, Kim Kardashian-West is the one the highest number of people (28%) would like to see take part in Scroll Free September.

    Find out more about the different ways of participating and sign up to take part in the campaign at www.scrollfreeseptember.org.

    Shirley Cramer CBE, Chief Executive of RSPH, said: “When used in the right way, social media can have a lot of real positives for mental health and wellbeing, including improving social connectivity and providing a source of emotional support. We want to harness and promote those positives, so Scroll Free September certainly isn’t about quitting social media for good.

    “Scroll Free September is about taking a break and taking notice of the aspects that may be having a more negative impact on your wellbeing – of which we know there are many – and using that knowledge to establish a healthier, more balanced relationship with social media in the future. Whether it’s scrolling before bed stopping you sleeping, following aspirational and unattainable accounts denting your self-esteem, or the ever-presence of phones getting in the way of your face-to-face interactions with friends and family, Scroll Free September gives us all the opportunity to identify those negative elements and cut them out for good.”

    Endorsing the campaign, Jonathan Ashworth MP, Labour’s Shadow Health and Social Care Secretary, said: “Having just completed my own ‘digital detox’ for August I wholeheartedly endorse RSPH’s ‘Scroll Free September’ campaign. My scroll free August wasn’t easy but I certainly feel I benefited from taking a break.

    “RSPH’s significant research has confirmed that many young people believe their anxiety, body-image concerns and sleeping difficulties are worsened by considerable social media use. We can no longer ignore the impact excessive social media use and addiction is having on the mental health and wellbeing of so many in our communities. I congratulate RSPH for launching this campaign which I know will influence all those who, like me, are determined to improve the health and wellbeing of every child.”

    Claire Murdoch, NHS England’s national director for mental health, said: “Scroll Free is right to highlight growing concerns that social media is contributing to increasing mental health issues in young people and a major ramp up of services will be needed to deal with the problems as part of the NHS long-term plan. We need to see concerted action, with everyone taking responsibility, including social media giants, so the NHS is not left to pick up the pieces of a mental health epidemic in the next generation.”

    Supporting the announcement of Scroll Free September last month, Chris Elmore MP, Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Social Media and Young People’s Mental Health and Wellbeing, said: “Scroll Free September is a great opportunity to take a break from social media. Many of us are guilty of becoming consumed by social media and whilst there are many benefits to using the various platforms which are available, it’s important to take some time out. I’d highly encourage everyone to get involved in this initiative – there are several different ways to do so to suit everyone. So please do take a look and see what benefits it brings to your everyday life.”

    Victoria Prentis MP, Vice-Chair of the APPG, added: “I am really pleased that I am able to lend my support to Scroll Free September. I am an active user of social media, given my role as a Member of Parliament so I am sure the first few days of the blackout will be a challenge. However, as the mother of teenagers I am only too aware of the negative impact social media can have on the mental health and wellbeing of children these days. Initiatives like Scroll Free September provide a welcome opportunity for users to reflect and to build a healthier, more balanced relationship with social media. I would encourage my constituents to get behind the campaign too!”

    Dr Nerina Ramlakhan, a sleep expert from Scroll Free September sponsors Silentnight, said: “Social networks are definitely causing a heightened feeling of FoMO, particularly with the younger generation who are so used to seeing their social lives played out online.

    “It’s quite concerning to see just how much people are using social media at night time. The impact on sleep is particularly concerning. It’s proven that the blue light from phones and tablets wakes up the brain making it difficult to wind down and fall asleep. So punctuating the night with social media checks is a recipe for disaster if you want to sleep well.

    “As a sleep deprived nation we’d do well to limit the amount of time we are spending on social media. Scroll Free September is a great chance to initiate this change in lifestyle and reassess our social media use.”



  • Written by Safeguarding Essentials on August 31, 2018 13:37

    Online radicalisation

    Protecting young people from grooming


    Gaming Computer
    Tackling terrorism remains to be one of the government’s main priorities.

    What with the convenience and accessibility of social networks, social games and encrypted communication platforms, the mammoth task of combatting extremism is made much trickier.

    How are extremists using online technologies to exploit children into believing their ways?


    What is online radicalisation?
    Increasingly, the Internet is being used by people who wish to share views and opinions. When this is done by an extremist - someone who holds extreme political and/or religious views and who may promote illegal or violent action – in a way designed to cause those views to be adopted by others, this is defined as online radicalisation. It is a form of grooming – enticing someone to act in a certain way or manner for malicious reasons.

    How are young people radicalised online?
    Extremists meet young people where they are at – in online games, on social networks and on apps. Because of the physical divide, children may not perceive online strangers as potentially unsafe in the way that they would do in the real world, and therefore they may engage with them on more personal levels. Their usual barriers may be down, causing them to be more vulnerable. In addition to this, as young people grow and develop in their understanding of who they are and where they belong in the world, they may search for others’ views and opinions and seek guidance from their online acquaintances; their youth leading to greater susceptibility.

    Some extremist organisations make training resources and videos using themes of popular violent games, such as Call of Duty, as they know that these will be particularly appealing to young people. In some cases, extremist have directly used the social nature of online games to groom children – meeting them where they are at and playing on their emotions. Extremists may also publish content on YouTube or use other popular apps, such as Instagram and Snapchat, to spread their messages.

    Extremist groomers play on a young person’s feelings and will make their ideals appealing.

    Who is at greater risk?
    Anyone, at any point, could potentially be groomed by an extremist online, but young people who fall into one of the below categories are particularly vulnerable:

  • Those who are searching for answers to life online;
  • Those who are associated with a gang, or involved in criminal activity;
  • Those who are suffering with behavioural problems or issues at home;
  • Those who lack self-esteem, confidence or a sense of identity.
  • Preventing online radicalisation
    To help young people stay safe from this form of grooming, it’s essential that they are taught to:

  • Understand that some strangers online pose risks, have corrupt intentions and may not be who they say they are;
  • Understand that people can publish anything online, even things that are false, untrustworthy and untrue;
  • Speak to an adult about anyone who is making them feel uncomfortable or trying to make them believe in certain views/opinions;
  • Report content or messages that promote violence.
  • Adults can also get involved by:

  • Talking to young people openly about terrorism and extremism – what it is and the effect it has;
  • Helping young people grow in their sense of self-confidence and self-worth;
  • Being aware of what young people are doing online and who they’re talking to;
  • Making sure that age-appropriate controls are in place;
  • Checking that young people know who to report inappropriate/violent content to;
  • Being aware of the signs that a young person may be being groomed: they may start to talk about new beliefs and cultures, they may become emotionally volatile or secretive and they may start to mistrust the mainstream media and look for conspiracy theories.


  • Further guidance, teaching resources and staff training on anti-radicalisation is available to E-safety Support and Safeguarding Essentials members. Join now!

    Written by Matt Lovegrove on July 12, 2018 12:35

    Selfies, Sexting and Sextortion

    This week there have been a string of reminders in the news about the risks young people are exposed to through selfies, sexting and sextortion.

    Just a week ago, news reports announced that the College of Policing was advising that not all cases of sexting should be reported as a crime. To avoid criminalising young people for inappropriate but generally naive behaviour, the report suggested that a ‘common sense’ approach be taken particularly in cases where the images are self-generated or obtained with consent. While the new advice has been largely well received, it remains to be seen how this will protect those involved, when a self-generated image gets shared beyond it’s intended recipient for example – and who has the responsibility for deciding what should and shouldn’t be reported.

    A few days on, and a new online challenge emerged – the one finger challenge. This, the latest in the ‘online challenge’ genre, encourages people to take naked selfies in a mirror, using one finger to cover up their privates. It’s easy to see how this ‘challenge’ could be attractive to young people. It’s also easy to see how it can lead to regrettable and potentially upsetting situations for those involved at a later stage. There would no doubt be a considerable amount of peer pressure to get involved in the ‘challenge’, which could also lead to bullying for both those who do and do not take part.

    24 hours later, Jeremy Hunt announced to the Commons Health Committee on suicide prevention efforts, that children should be blocked from texting sexually explicit images by social media companies. Mr Hunt urged technology companies to use software to identify and prevent inappropriate images being sent by under 18s. This recommendation has come under fire, suggesting that this form or ‘censorship’ could do more harm than good. And surely, this blinkered approach to an out-right ban on sexting for under 18s conflicts with the earlier advice from the College of Policing, who seemingly have accepted that sexting is part of current youth culture.

    And lastly, on the same day, the National Crime Agency (NCA) reported that sextortion has increased. Sextortion is a form of blackmail, where victims are coerced into performing sex acts on webcams by fraudsters. The victims are then blackmailed with the footage. A substantial proportion of victims are aged between 11 and 20. This is a relatively new crime, but has already been linked to four suicides in the UK including one teenage boy. In response, the NCA have launched a campaign to give advice to actual and potential victims.

    So, once again, these varying news items have brought to the forefront the issues surrounding the sharing of personal images online. The suggestions that have been made are likely to have mixed reaction and indeed mixed success. But ultimately, they all remind us that teaching children about these risks, must be embedded in online safety education.



    Opinions will vary on the matters raised in these news reports and we welcome your thoughts using the comments section below.

    Written by Safeguarding Essentials on December 02, 2016 09:46


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