In-depth investigation and analysis of the stories behind the day's headlines with Evan Davis. Newsnight asks: is social media harming children?
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The playground has always been
a judgemental space...
But there's no playground
more judgemental than
that of social media.
What does getting a like mean?
people like me.
It's hard enough for adults
to navigate their way
through the world of social media -
so feel for the children
who have to learn the do's
and don'ts for themselves.
England's Children Commissioner
thinks they need guidance.
We'll ask what parents
and schools can do to help,
and what damage is done
if they don't.
Would you be more likely to invest
in a furniture manufacturer
if they put the word "blockchain"
in their name and said
they were now getting
into the crypto-currency business?
You're not alone.
It's all the rage.
We have a psychology professor
to help analyse your problem.
And activist power.
A new study tells us
what the members of
political parties think.
And, yes, they do think.
But are they exerting too much power
over parties that are really meant
to be accountable to the people?
We've all met adults
who are worryingly addicted
to social media and the sense
of self worth it gives them.
So how much more concerned should
we be, when it comes to children?
Well, the Children's Commissioner
for England, Anne Longfield,
is very worried about those leaving
primary school, who end up craving
acceptance via likes
and positive comments on line.
Publishing a study on social media
use of 8 to 12-year-olds,
she concludes that schools need
to help the pre-teens prepare
for the emotional assaults
they will endure on social media
when they are in secondary school.
Enormous change in the use of social
media from something that is fun
and friendly and part of family life
younger, to an absolute cliff edge
when 13 go to secondary school -
which we know is one
of the most pressured times
for children when they
start to learn what the new
environment is about, where they
have an avalanche of
pressure from social media.
Suddenly, the whole new peer group
has a phone in their hand
and has access to social
media as part of that.
She thinks parents need
guidance too, by the way.
But before we talk about how
to best help young people
navigate social media,
let's hear from them.
We sent Katie Razzall to a girl's
state secondary school
in south London today.
She talked to some eleven and
12-year-olds. Their school has a ban
on phones, but for a conversation
about phones and what these students
do with them, the rules quite fairly
went out of the window. Does
everyone in your class have a smart
I got it when I was 10,
because my mum thinks I'm sensible.
As I got into year six I started
having Instagram and things like
that and yeah...
Lie did you want
I think it is because everyone
else had it and it is not like, it
is at school I want it.
supposed to be 13 to have them?
It makes people our age feel under
pressure, because you know you're
supposed to have this thing and your
parents say you can't and it is over
and over again like a cycle, should
I get it?
Other people have Facebook
Some people that you
have got to be like them and do
everything they do and if you don't
have something, people aren't going
to like you.
I had music in my
phone, because I thought it would be
fun. Then I found out that all the
stalkers and all the other people
that are not really good. So I just,
my mum told me to take it off.
spend about... Six to seven hours on
It just depends
on what I'm doing every day.
spend a lot of time on my phone, now
I spend kind of enough.
that? Four or five hours a day. But
I'm also on games.
I don't spend
much time on my phone, because I do
things like learning Japanese
because of some obvious reasons.
What does getting a like mean?
popular? People appreciate me.
don't have the social media that
gets me like, but my friends care
about getting likes.
When I observe
my friend getting them likes, they
go, like they have won the lottery,
like I got a like. And for them it
means the whole world.
Do you think
it can be damaging to people?
because for example Instagram it is
something like the perfect image and
the perfect body and people can
change that and start to not eat
anything or start to change the way
they look or you know do things
without their parents knowing. Yeah,
it is damaging.
Do people worry about being rejected
if they're not part of something
Yes. It depends who it is.
Some feel if I don't get added to
this group, then you're not part of
anything and you feel like excluded
People go out of
their way to try and make themselves
look like the perfect image. They
have seen someone like a celebrity
and they're, like, they're perfect.
So they try to make themselves look
like them in speech or in appearance
or even in personality.
two people are having an argument
and loads of people go on one side
and the other person feels bad. And
they get upset and people add them
back to torment them.
people, like they say, oh, you're
not good enough. And yeah, that is
what they say.
does that make people feel?
Views from one school there.
Now, I am joined by head teacher
of Passmores Academy Vic Goddard,
author Shannon Kyle,
and Carina Maggar who is choosing to
take a step back from social media.
I want to ask each of you, if I put
a button here and if you pushed that
button all social media disappears
and is eradicated from everyone
under 16 would you push the butt snn
Why would you do that?
it has so many negative effects and
it is so time consuming on their
daily lives. So much time is spend
on their phone.
They can keep the
internet and look things up, just
the social media.
I would push it as
Definitely. I think the
ability to communicate orally is
affected by the fact is that they
communicate in that way and I think
it will limit their life chances.
You can have both, but that takes
parenting and balance.
We have heard
one pupil in that saying, six hours
a day on the phone.
Do you come across that
Yes. If I ask a pupil where
their school planner is they can't
find it but they know where their
I believe it can be a
force for good and I think that
there is a lot of hysteria around
this that is unnecessary. It is like
in the 1960s when our grandparents'
generation were worried and the
coffee shops and it was just
something for young people and I
think that it can do a force for
good. They can make friends and get
advice that they wouldn't otherwise
get. Of course, it can be a bit of a
beast and it needs containing and
using responsibly, but ultimately it
is a fantastic thing. When I was a
teenager in the nineties I was stuck
in my bedroom thumbing through old
copies of Just 17.
I'm struck by if
kids are not being cruel this way,
they're going to be cruel in another
method. Maybe we worry about the
It is control. Where is my
child at its safest? In my house. If
my son's in my house he is safe. Not
any more. He is not safe in my
house. If I don't know what he is
on, what social media, we have got
to translate social media into the
real world, would you allow a
stranger to walk into your child's
bedroom? No. That is not good
enough. Would you like a stranger to
walk up to your child in a park? No.
It is about good parenting.
Kit be a
superaccelerator of problems,
children can bully each other, they
always have, but it can be
particularly aggressively magnified
when there is this power of
communication. Is that not a
Of course it is. I wouldn't
deny for a second that it was. But
at the end of the day, on social
media, you can block somebody. If
you're getting bullied in the school
ground, you have to see them. And if
you educate your children to
actually acknowledge when this is
happening, when something's out of
order, you can get them to do it.
you buy that?
I find it so difficult
to answer that question. It is about
educating your kids and about
knowing... I would worry that
putting up a selfie and a kid
receiving ten likes will feel ugly
and insecure and it is about
educating your children about the
things they should be sharing
Let's talk about how we make
it better. We haven't got the
button, we just have to make the
best of what exists. You have writ
an letter to your parents.
It had nothing to do with
this. You have rules, you let them
bring phones in. You could say no
Schools do. When you speak
to the parents of the children in
the school, because some work in my
school and they go they have never
handed their phone in once. The the
school has achieved that the phone
is not disturbing learning. Some say
you have to hand it in. I haven't
got one today, Sir. Of course you
haven't. For me, it is about as a
parent giving them a space where it
is monitored. Getting them to
understand having a phone is a
privilege, not a right. I have given
them that phone and there comes
responsibility for their behaviour
and how they deal with each other.
Charging stations in your house no,
phone in the bedroom. Before you go
to bed, the phone is charged here.
You have a night's sleep. The
fear... Of missing out.
your daughter, do you let her keep
the phone with her by the bed at
She is 16 now, I would defy
any parent after the age of 14 or 15
to take that phone off them. It is
about being sensible, but it is
also, it is about education, so the
kids need to know when they have had
enough. Sometimes my daughter says,
I have had enough of my phone and
I'm going to put it away.
just fooling you.
That is what I
started to do, I found I was
spending too much time on my phone.
And you have to have the will power
to say it is not the first thing I
will look at in the morning. It is a
fairly tale land, this is the real
world. What is in the palm of your
hand is a fairy tale version.
takes a lot for a teenager think
that when everybody else is looking
at their phone.
There is a thing
about tough love, I don't think it
is tough love, it is authentic care.
I want to keep my child safe and Pow
understand the power and what it can
be used for in the good and to
understand when it is time to put it
away, I as a adult will make that
decision if I have to.
Do you allow
your daughter secrets on line, you
don't read her texts?
No, not now.
When she was younger I was there
when she signed up to Facebook and
giter and looked to see what she was
doing. She fined up at 1.
She is not
allowed at 11.
The rule is 13. But
they're all doing it at 11. I made a
decision, maybe I may...
You let her
Yes I did. I hold my
What does that teach her?
Why are they different ages?
the thing. The social network
companies need to get together and
they need to monitor this. It isn't
being monitored. Kids will do what
they want at whatever age. You are
right, it starts at secondary
school, that's when the problems
start. If you go to secondary
school, you don't have a mobile
phone, you are not on social media,
you are really left out.
come back to the schools, as much as
it comes to the parents. If the
parents try to impose something on
their child that none of the other
What impact can I have? I
cannot tell parents that, I can
encourage, but I can't do it.
least the hours you have them at
school, you can say put the phones
That is what we say. From my
point of view, if a child is doing a
science experiment, they can put it
on their phone, and use it later,
that is worthwhile. I used to like
the blackberry phones, because they
used to flash a red light in their
pockets. IPhones, we say in your
bag, unless we give them permission
to have it out. A parent who gives a
phone to their child without
boundaries, they have reneged on
leave it there. Thank you.
You've heard of bitcoin,
and its ability to apparently
create money from nothing.
And hundreds of billions
of dollars of money at that.
But you may have missed just how
wacky the world of crypto currencies
has become in recent weeks.
There are over a thousand
of them now - and more
are being created all the time.
It's a classic gold rush.
But even more weird has been the way
ordinary companies have jumped
on the bandwagon with some
spectacular market results.
One American iced tea maker,
for example, changed
its name in December
from Long Island Iced Tea Corp,
to Long Blockchain Corp -
blockchain being the technology that
powers bitcoin and other
The share price tripled.
Not surprisingly, regulators
are worried and many think this
is reminiscent of the worst excesses
of the dot com bubble.
Our technology editor David Grossman
explains what has been going on.
A rose by any other name, of course,
but in the corporate world names
matter. The promising start-up
backrub that managed to conquer the
world would not have done had it not
changed its name to Google. Wood
blue ribbon sports have made such a
swoosh if it hadn't become Nikkei?
-- if it hasn't become Nike. We have
had the words biotech and nano
putting companies -- are giving
companies a good share price. Now,
the word is blockchain.
stick blockchain in their company
name, people will think, we will go
with them, because I will see a good
return. You are seeing that a lot.
Anything with bitcoin is doing well.
Blockchain Might be able to do
similar, so people will want some.
It's the technology that underpins
currencies like bitcoin. It allows
every currency to verify every
transaction. It means you can do
away with a central register which
is vulnerable to hacking.
Is opening up a way to do finance
which is more transparent, cheaper,
faster, and it gives us the ability
to cut out a lot of the middlemen
and automated processes, whilst
still keeping the same level or an
improved level of security. But
it'll take time. We still have a
long way to go. We need to battle
test the technology. There will be
ups and downs along the way. From a
starting point, it's a really good
Our company simply cashing in
on the name? Take, for example,
online plc, an Essex -based company
that plodded along with a share
price so that you could hang washing
on it. Until late October when it
changed its name to online
blockchain plc, the 400% share price
rise immediately. The name change
simply reflected the reality of what
the company was now doing, according
to its owner.
Clearly changed our
name once in a generation. But it
was a big change. It's had a big
effect. We could have carried on
with online and not change the name
and nobody would know for another
six, nine months, that would be a
distortion of the facts. It's
important with names that you tell
people what you are doing and that
you transmit your message. It's all
well and good being called something
obscure, but it's hard to get your
In some cases,
though, in the early stages of a new
technology it isn't always possible
to say which companies claims are
real and which mere illusion.
Investors have to be very careful.
There is a lot of good projects out
there and equally there are a lot of
projects that have understood that
by just using the buzzword
blockchain you can attract a lot of
investors and money. Homework is
required. A lot of self education,
self teaching, is required before
putting any money to these products.
As the super investor Warren Buffett
sagely remarked, only when the tide
goes out to you discover who has
been swimming naked. The blockchain
tide is still rising and come who
knows, it might do for decades, or
it might drain on the Santa Maria
exposing, well, who knows what?
Well, at least in the time
of tulipmania, there were actual
tulips at the end of it all,
and people understood
what they could do.
Let's talk to Professor Peter Ayton
who is a psychologist specialising
in behavioural economics.
Would you buy shares into a company
that changed its name, and changed
its focus to dabbling in crypto
Possibly. I'm a human
like everybody else. I don't suppose
my baby would be that discrepant
from what everybody else might
To me it looks crazy. -- I
don't suppose my behaviour. What
would motivate people to go into
this? Has agreed taking over? There
were some psychology, isn't there?
-- has agreed.
There is a behaviour
which is anonymous with respect to
what economists think ought to be
happening. That shouldn't be a
surprise. We have had another Nobel
Prize for a behavioural economist
this year. What we observe happening
is no surprise to me.
Is it almost
hormonal, biological, you can put
people's brains into MRIs and see
what they are thinking when they
make these choices?
This is the
field of new economics. The
existence of such a field would be a
science fiction 20 years ago. But
now it is providing us with all
sorts of insight into the way the
brain does things, which then have
ramifications. It is slightly
curious to me that we have this,
sort of common interest in
phenomena, which, sort of, looks
psychological more than economic.
Irrational exuberance is one of the
hallmarks of the surprise that human
beings have brains and emotions and
all sorts of things, why shouldn't
that reflect in economic behaviour?
Looking at this, though, you've got
people borrowing money to invest in
these things. In the currencies
themselves. And now presumably in
some of the shares of companies
dabbling in it. Probably doing that
in the hope others will do that, so
the prices will go on up. Isn't that
just a bubble? An archetypal case of
The stock market is based
on an audit assessment of what
people think other people will
think, other people will think it's
worth, and so on. -- based on nth
assessment. You are basing things on
people's behaviour, rather than
understanding asset value of a
What is the asset value of
a business that says, we made
furniture, now we are going to do
something involving a currency like
bitcoin... How do you possibly think
this company is going to be in a
particularly good position to
I don't really
understand exactly why the sort of
thing happens. Neither does anybody
else, for that matter. The idea that
changing the name of something might
make a difference is as old as the
hills. We've seen that happened many
times -- happen many times.
more relaxed by this than perhaps
even regulators are. They are
obviously worried lots of people
will lose quite a bit out of it, I
I don't know how you can
regulate for people to prevent them
from speculating in a way they see
fit. There is an market if you
regulate that out of existence.
people losing money. The advice is
not to invest into it if you cannot
afford to do that if you lose.
don't know how much the investment
is discretionary. I don't know, I
would be astonished if everybody
backed their hat on it -- on
bitcoin, for example.
-- thank you very much.
Viewsnight has no aspirations to add
blockchain or any other
cryptocurrency terms to its title.
It is is of course our opinion slot,
and this week we are getting views
on big issues that face us in 2018.
Now on Brexit, among fervent
remainers, there is a big
debate going on right now
as to whether it is right to aim
at reversing Brexit,
or whether that is anti-democratic.
It's a lively argument, but tonight,
Times columnist David Aaronovitch
argues that Brexit voters may be
in demographic decline.
The Brexit generation is dying out.
The other evening I was talking to a
friend from Yorkshire about, you
Should we be grateful to the members
of political parties?
They pay subscriptions that help
keep the parties going, they trudge
the streets trying to bring politics
to your doorstep, they go to
meetings to help shape party policy.
And however much you may
you at least have to recognise that
democracy requires functioning
parties, even if it is only to give
you something to complain about.
So, yes, we should be
grateful to the activists.
But at the same time
there is a problem - they now
have the power to pick a Prime
Minister and yet they are not
of the population at large.
And we can say that now
because of a big survey of party
members, carried out
by the Mile End Institute attached
to Queen Mary University of London.
And on and on TV coverage of the
party conferences. Maybe you can
tell they are not typical. The
average age of conservatives is 57.
The population at large is younger,
average age 40. Labour is more
surprising. You might have seen
images of lots of young Jeremy
Corbyn supporters, but the party's
membership actually has an average
age is not much different to the
Tories, 53. But what about their
views? Labour and Tories are poles
apart, they imported the divisions
within the country. On same-sex
marriage, for example, conservatives
are only 41% in favour, labour, 85%.
The public are in the middle at
about 66%. On the death penalty,
most Tory members think it is the
most appropriate sentence for some
crimes, and fewer than a tenth of
Labour voters do. National polls put
public support for the reinstatement
of the death penalty at between 36
and 49%, depending on how you ask
the question. Then there is Brexit.
Should Britain stay in the single
market, for example, a quarter of
conservatives want to, the vast bulk
of Labour members want to. As for
the public at large, polls vary, as
do the questions, but generally
support for the single market is
nearer 50%. You would expect
activists to be unrepresentative,
particularly as there are so many
fewer of them as they used to be.
The Tories boasted of having over 2
million members in the 50s, now it
is maybe fewer than 150,000, but
they don't publish figures any more.
But that's select group has the
potential power to select a Prime
Minister. In 2016, when David
Cameron resigned, Tory members came
close to having a say between
Theresa May and Andrea Leadsom over
who would lead the country. It would
have been the first time party
members had chosen a PM and on the
evidence of the poll Tory members
would have been closer to Andrea
Leadsom. She, of course, dropped out
of the race before they had a
But the country is already divide
and politics need to involve the
process ofarbitration between values
and should power be in the group who
tend to have opinions at the extreme
ends of spectrum. When I said there
was 150,000 fewer Tories, some say
it half that number, but they don't
publish the figure.
Ustin Fisher is Professor
of Political Science
at Brunel University London.
Cherry Mosteshar is co-chair
of Momentum in Oxford.
Chloe Ahmed is a member
of the Conservative party.
Why do you do it?
I ask that myself
on a very cold January evening when
I'm standing at someone's door
trying to persuade them to vote
Labour and all they want is why
Jeremy Corbyn wears a certain kind
of shoe. It does get soul-destroying
sometimes. But I believe that if you
want a certain sort of world and you
have a vision of how it can achieve
that, you have to go out there and
try and at least talk to people and
tell them why you think they would
be better off.
What about you Chloe,
do you, hope that you will influence
the Conservative Party in some way
as an individual?
That and you have
to be, to change anything you have
to be part of it. You can't expect
your future to be a certain way if
you don't put anything into it. You
can't sit back and say this will
It is civic duty.
can't expect anything to happen if
you don't put anything in.
half the age of Conservative
Parties, you must be the youngest
person in the room by a mile.
Everybody says that, but no, there
is lots of young Conservative
groups, we have a great young
Conservative movement and we go to
lots of socials and meetings and I'm
not the only person.
liberal end, the younger
demographic, political views as
well, you support Theresa May in
favour of same sex marriage.
I go to meetings and I'm
the oldest one. How did that happen.
We have shown this young activist
Labour Party, your members are the
same age as the Conservative
Parties. 53 to 57.
There is a big
influx of new, young members and
they have more energy than activists
have had. I have been doing this
for... 40 years and I have never
seen so many people that are going
we are going out are you coming?
Labour do have half a million
It is incredible.
professor Fisher, is it an issue
that these people have too much pow
-- power? If it is an issue, it
has always been an issue and at the
start of 20th century people asked
if it was right that lead we are
accountable to the members. Labour
kept the unions, because they were
scared of people being too radical.
Before it was a balancing act
between voters, the leader and the
activists, what we see in Labour is
the leadership and the activists, at
least the momentum being more
aligned than usual. As we have seen
in this data, the voters are nor
I'm not a separate group.
I organise under a banner calmed
momentum -- called momentum, it was
the campaign to elect Jeremy Corbyn.
It is to preserve his legacy. You're
a Labour Party member No 1.
campaign for Blair?
I did, but those
were my salad days.
Is it the case
that parties, this is the crucial
question, parties have that have
more members have become more
alienated from the voters.
tended to the care, particularly
with more left of centre. That is
largely because right of centre
parties have been able to command
things like finance from outside
sources. Left of centre parties tend
to be less well served financially.
Labour has had the unions in the
past. But you know now we see that
the Conservative Parties are more a
wealthy party. It is a balancing
act. You have got to give the
members something back. But
sometimes democratic participation
can be unpredictable.
What do you
think of momentum, do you think of
momentum as a great democratic
force, you obviously don't adegree
with them. - agree with them. Do you
see it as a good thing.
I to engage
people, yes. It is a good thing for
every political party to be able to
engage with the general public. But
what momentum has become, do I agree
with it no, it has become a platform
for people to abuse.
There is no
such thing as momentum as, we're a
disparate group. We are leaderless.
I there is no one to answer to.
I want to ask, would you consider it
democratic in 2016 if Tory member
had picked Andrea Leadsom as leader.
Does that feel to you democratic?
We have to look at the whole
You believe in members.
believe that members and specially
ly now with the growing members of
Would you be happy
with Tory members picking a Prime
Minister. Of course you're happy
with Labour members picking a Prime
Minister, what about Tory members.
That is democracy. It is like
saying, yes, I would like to choose,
but we weren't going out of Europe.
But I can't.
Why not, when Blair
resigned, as leader, the Labour
members had the opportunity to elect
a new leader. It was the same one
member election that we had in the
Conservative Party. But it is no
different if it is the Conservative
Party or the Labour Party.
members, the MPs, are accountable to
their voters. And so you used to be,
until recently that the MPs chose
the leader a the Prime Minister and
now the MPs might be foisted upon
them somebody they don't want as
That is always a danger. We
saw that with the Conservative Party
when Iain Duncan Smith was elected.
What you have to remember is the
parties have to give members
something to keep them involved.
Cherry and Chloe do all the
wonderful things that party members
do, campaigning and so on, but what
is the incentive for someone to get
involved if they don't get a say? It
is a real balancing act for parties.
It is extending it. You know having
members choose the leadership,
whatever party is more democratic.
It is about...
Better than the MPs.
Yes, because they're a small group
and they can be, deals can be
stitched up, they think about their
They're accountable to
the voters in t way that the
If you're asking
members, we are members of
Conservative Party, but anybody can
be a member of a political party.
Anyone can join.
This argument has
been raging since 1902. So we won't
resolve it now.
We are trying to
make politics that reflects the
Thank you all very much. A
very quick time to look at the
papers, the financial times
companies want to replace hard ware.
The Times question President Trump's
mental health. The Guardian, Theresa
May says sorry to patients and The
Express give foreign aid crash to
Well, that is it for this evening.
But Glasgow film festival announced
today it will open with the UK
premiere of Wes Anderson's new film
- an animated feature
called "isle of dogs".
Anderson is famous
for his hyper-stylised
and symmetrical aesthetic.
You may have seen it in films
like The Grand Budapest Hotel
and The Royal Tenenbaums.
Well sometimes life imitates art.
Wally Koval's instagram feed,
"accidentally Wes Anderson" gathers
some evidence for that.
MUSIC: Alone Again Or by Love.
Is social media harming children? Plus companies that boost their value with blockchain buzzwords, and do party members have too much influence?