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New VR films exposed the dangerous underside of social media

Four new films have been created by a leading VR organisation to showcase the affects social media can have on children’s mental health.

Discussions of how to help protect children online have been circulating for quite some time. In 2023, after years of debate, the government’s Online Safety Bill became law, which seeks to force tech firms to take more responsibility for the content on their platforms.

However, Cornerstone VR, an organisation that is part of the Antser Group, have gone the extra mile and produced four films that highlight how dangerous the digital world can be for children.

Launched this month, the films were written and scripted following several focus groups with professionals working with children in social care and the education sector, including the teams at Inspirations – providers of children’s residential care homes – and the London Borough of Redbridge, as well as conversations with young people and consultations with social media experts.

The first film is an introduction to social media, showing how it fits into the daily life of a young person, such as WhatsApp conversations with family members and friends to receiving unsolicited messages from strangers; films two and three detail how young people can be persuaded to meet someone in real life and the fourth focuses on the decline of a young person’s mental health due to social media.

Reasons for the films being created are because recent findings have found that around 90% of young people believe social media is driving harmful behaviour.

Against this backdrop, a survey conducted at the end of last year by YoungMinds, found that 34% of young people wanted to leave social media weekly but felt unable to do so, while more than a fifth are shown distressing content, based on their browsing history, at least once a week.

‘It’s no secret that social media is now an inescapable presence in the everyday lives of so many of us, especially among young people,’ Serena Hadi, head of operations and practice at Cornerstone said. ‘It yields huge power and there are many people using their influence online to target vulnerable children and young people. When we started doing our research, we were really surprised by the methods that these individuals were using.’

In addition, Parminder Basra, director of operations at Inspirations, said: ‘When asked if we had young people who would like to support Cornerstone’s new videos, we were keen to do so as we understand the risk online social media has on young impressionable minds. Before the internet, the risk for children from strangers was mainly outside the home but this is no longer the case. We need to do all we can to educate and raise awareness to help young minds navigate their first experience of social media and throughout their childhood to equip them with skills to manage the risks.’

More information at the new videos and Cornerstone VR can be found here.

Image: maxim-hopman

More on this topic:

UK children to become safer online as world-leading bill becomes law

WHO produced first ever report to help keep children safe online

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