‘Children growing up with warped view of normal because of social media’

Social media is giving children a ‘warped’ idea of what is normal, Education Secretary Damian Hinds has warned Credit: Peter Byrne/PA

Children are growing up with a “warped” view of what is normal because of the fake images they see on social media, the Education Secretary has warned.

Damian Hinds is calling on social media influencers to take responsibility for their young audience, and take fewer selfies.

He is urging them to use #notedited as well as be more transparent about online images that have been altered.

Speaking on Stop Cyberbullying Day, Mr Hinds has called on online personalities to help in the fight against negative body image.

He said: “Children are growing up with a warped view of what is normal because so much of what they see on social media is false.

“These days there’s a filter for everything, so much so that when something ‘real’ goes online it’s tagged as #nofilter but there should also be #notedited.

“I want social media influencers to think about what they are putting on their platform – is it honest? Is it authentic? Is it too image-focused?”

He added that he has always been supportive of the benefits of the internet, but is asking online celebrities for fewer selfies and more travel, more nature and more honesty.

“Use your access to educate your young followers rather than focus on body image.

“All online influencers, social media companies, TV channels and streaming sites must take their responsibility more seriously because their world is one we spend so much time in.

“We need action now to stop today’s young people facing a lifetime of abuse online.”

His comments come as latest data from the Mental Health Foundation found 40% of teenagers said things their friends said have made them worry about their body image.

An Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development report published on Wednesday indicates that occurrences of hurtful information being posted online are more frequent in England compared with other countries.

From 2020, the Government is introducing compulsory health education in every state-funded school, alongside compulsory relationships education for all primary pupils, and relationships and sex education for all secondary pupils in England.

This will mean that children will learn about internet safety and harms – including the unrealistic expectation of body image and how people may present a specific image of their life online  – alongside the importance of mental and physical well-being.