Phoning it in

  • Research
  • 12 May 2024

Research in the UK and across four countries finds high support for tighter regulation of social media and online harms, particularly when it comes to protecting children online.

Britons are unhappy about their relationships with their smartphones and deeply concerned about the impact of social media and smartphones on children and young people. They  worry they spend too much time glued to their phones and that social media is increasingly a force for bad in society - particularly for young people. Parents in the UK, even more so than other countries surveyed, say they are struggling to control their children’s screen time.

This briefing brings together quantitative and qualitative research about what the public think about smartphones, social media and young people - and what they want the Government to do about it. Based on comprehensive polling across four countries (The UK, USA, France and Germany) it finds not only that Britons want our Government to go much further in regulating social media, but that they are also much more likely to support policies that restrict social media than people in the three other countries.

While parents and the wider public acknowledge that they have a key role to play, they do not feel able to act alone. The impetus needs to come from the Government - whether by implementing a digital age of adulthood as Emmanuel Macron has proposed for Europe, or keeping social media and smartphones out of schools. 

This is not a partisan issue or a new front in the culture war. What is striking about attitudes to social media is that views on its harms and the need for action are consistent across those from very different ideological perspectives and backgrounds. 

The clear message from the public is that Britons want and need the Government to help them take back control from social media.

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