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'Scroll free September': social media users urged to quit sites

File photo dated 03/01/18 of social media app icons. Headteachers are calling for new social media laws to keep children safe, amid concerns that youngsters' use of these sites is harming their mental health. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Friday March 9, 2018. According to a small-scale poll by the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) most school leaders have received reports of pupils being bullied or being exposed to unsuitable material - such as sexual content or hate speech, with some saying this is happening on a daily or weekly basis. See PA story EDUCATION SocialMedia. Photo credit should read: Yui Mok/PA Wire

Social media users are being urged to stop scrolling through sites for a month as part of a new campaign.

The UK’s Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) is calling on people to stop using platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat in September, or to cut down the amount of time they spend on them.

The Scroll Free September campaign comes amid growing concern about the impact of social media on mental health.

It follows the establishment of health awareness months such as Dry January, when people cut back on alcohol, and Stoptober, when smokers are encouraged to quit.

Two thirds of users (65%) would consider taking part in the initiative and many believe giving up social media would have a positive impact on their lives, a RSPH survey found.

Shirley Cramer, chief executive of RSPH, said Scroll Free September offers the opportunity "to take back control of our relationship with social media".

She said: "The aim is that by the end of the month, we will be able to reflect back on what we missed, what we didn't, and what we got to enjoy instead of scrolling through our news feeds.”

"That knowledge could help us build a healthier, more balanced relationship with social media in the future.”

"Of course, we know this will be a challenge because of the addictive nature of social media technology, which is why we need to work closely with the Government and the social media industry to create an online environment that is more conducive to positive mental health and wellbeing."

Claire Murdoch, NHS England's national director for mental health, said: "Scroll Free is right to highlight growing concerns that social media is contributing to increasing mental health issues in young people and a major ramp up of services will be needed to deal with the problems as part of the NHS 10-year plan.”

"We need to see concerted action, with everyone taking responsibility, including social media giants, so the NHS is not left to pick up the pieces of a mental health epidemic in the next generation."

One third of all users (33%) and half of 18 to 34-year-olds (50%) believe quitting social media for a month would help their sleep pattern, an RSPH survey of 1,725 users found.

The same number in both groups said it would benefit their real world relationships.

Almost half (47%) of young users and 31% of all users said going cold turkey on social media would have a positive impact on their mental health and wellbeing.

Two fifths (40%) of 18 to 34-year-olds said it would improve their body confidence and self-esteem.

Those taking part in the campaign, which runs from September 1 to September 30, will be encouraged to stop using or cut down time on personal social media accounts.

They can continue using instant messaging platforms and social media for work.