W2W - what's happening to the young?

WHAT on earth is going on with our young?

Some 200 youngsters are committing suicide each year and we face an epidemic of self-harm.

All this is in Children’s Mental Health week.

The debate on what the problem is, and how to prevent it, is now widespread.

Attention has been directed at one case in particular, that of 14-year-old Molly Russell.

After she tragically killed herself two years ago, her father discovered she had been visiting social media platforms featuring depression, anxiety, self-harm and suicide.

Worse, he discovered that the algorithms which run these sites urged her towards more, and ever bleaker, images.

With almost every child connected to the internet, the potential for online harm is real and troubling.

An Ofcom study found 11 per cent of 12-15 year olds have been bullied online, while 39 per cent have seen ‘worrying’ images.

Girls are particularly affected.

Self-harm is prolific, with figures from the Children’s Society showing it affects 22 per cent of 14-year-olds, and NHS data revealing that the number of under-18s hospitalised has doubled in 20 years to 13,500.

Research by the Prince’s Trust on those in their late teens is no better, showing that 57 per cent feel an overwhelming pressure to succeed, and 46 per cent feel inadequate.

So, what to do?

It’s been suggested that removing phones from schoolchildren during the school day would be a start.

The Chief Medical Officer points to evidence that the amount of screen time is linked to depression.

She advises screen-free evenings, especially at bedtime.

The problem’s not helped by the fact that there’s virtually no regulation of the internet.

Children’s Commissioner Anne Longfield and the Government are looking at this as a matter of priority, and not before time.