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Q&A Dr Ruth Plackett:

Why do you think initiatives like Meta's Youth Experts Network are important?

This network is important as it brings the voice of young people to the front and center of the debate on online safety and connects young people, researchers, the voluntary sector, and Meta together to gain a greater insight into the most important issues for young people and how they can be addressed.  

How do you see the intersection of youth wellbeing and the online world?

The online world is always changing and young people's relationship with things like social media is rapidly changing too. Young people are using social media all the time, but there is little robust research to say that this in itself is directly affecting young people's mental health. Many people, though, are concerned about the way it has shaped how we socialize and interact with others. 


Looking back on 2023, what is the main challenge you saw when it comes to youth online safety?

The main challenge is that young people can be exposed to triggering or negative content that can affect their mental health and they and their parents can only do so much to control the content they see because either they are unaware of safety settings that can be in place or they are not available. 


What is on your radar for youth online safety and youth wellbeing in 2024?

Creating greater awareness of safety features and settings for parents of younger children and for adolescents and young adults, and looking at the effects of different policies to regulate social media, such as the Online Safety Bill in the UK. 


What would be your advice for young people and their parents when it comes to a safe and healthy use of social media?

Have an open conversation about your social media use. Think about the things that make you feel good or bad on social media and try to maximize doing those activities that make you feel good and put controls in place to manage the more negative aspects. Look into the safety settings of your apps and try things like turning off notifications, setting time limits, limiting sensitive content exposure, and turning off likes. Taking breaks from social media to do other activities that you enjoy can also be really helpful. 


What role do you see policymakers playing in youth online safety?

Policymakers can help to enforce companies to be more stringent on age restrictions and age restricted material and removal of harmful or negative content. 


What role do you see for tech companies in continuing to better young people's experience on social media?

Tech companies can play a role in creating safer spaces online by continuing to improve on the removal of harmful content, age restrictions, and creating features that enable more young people and their parents to control the content they see. They can play a greater role in raising social media digital literacy for parents and young people. 


What types of social media habits do you see as most research-backed in their impact on mental health?

There is very little research on what social media habits have the most impact on mental health. However, some studies have suggested that spending a lot of time on social media can be harmful and that more passive use such as 'doomscrolling' can have a more negative impact than using social media more actively, say for messaging. 

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ThinkYoung is a not-for-profit organisation, aiming to make the world a better place for young people by involving them in decision-making processes and providing decision-makers with high-quality research on youth conditions. ThinkYoung conducts studies and surveys, makes advocacy campaigns, writes policy proposals, and develops education programmes: up to date, ThinkYoung projects have reached over 800,000 young people.

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Meta is a tech company with apps that you may know, like Instagram or WhatsApp. We work hard to build online spaces where young people can learn, connect, create, and have fun. We want young people to enjoy our platforms and to be safe, so creating spaces for young people to have their say on the future of platforms like ours is crucial.

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