Jim Shannon – 2016 Parliamentary Question to the Department of Health

The below Parliamentary question was asked by Jim Shannon on 2016-01-20.

To ask the Secretary of State for Health, what assessment his Department has made of the potential link between social media and self-harm among young people.

Alistair Burt

We recognise the potential influence of online platforms, including social media, on both promoting self-harm and supporting people who have or may be at risk of self-harm.

There is a link between bullying including cyberbullying and self-harm and the Department for Education produced guidance in October 2014, advising schools about preventing bullying. This guidance refers to new powers under the Education Act 2011 for teachers to search pupils, to confiscate IT equipment including mobile phones and to destroy offensive or inappropriate images.

The Government continues to provide financial support for the Multi-Centre Study of Self-Harm in England, which monitors trends in self-harm and recognises the potential influence of online platforms on self-harming in young people.

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport expects social media companies to have robust processes in place to address inappropriate and abusive content on their sites. This includes having clear reporting channels, acting promptly to assess reports, and removing content which does not comply with their acceptable use policies or terms and conditions. Social media can also help signpost vulnerable users to helpful sources of information and support.

Recently, Ofcom led a social media working group on behalf of UK Council for Child Internet Safety to develop best practice guidance to encourage responsible practice from industry, and ensure children using their services are able to do so in a safe and protected way. This guidance was delivered on 22 December 2015 and can be found at:


The Department of Health’s National Institute for Health Research has also funded ongoing research by the Samaritans and Bristol University into the influence on online platforms on suicidal behaviour.