Jeremy Hunt takes on social media titans to reduce impacts on mental health
UK Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has released an open letter to social media companies to make increased efforts to better protect younger users with regards to their mental health and wellbeing.
Constant access and addictions to social media platforms has been shown to impact the wellbeing of children. Giving companies till the end of April to find a suitable solution or implement essential safeguards, Hunt has said that such unlimited access has impacted children’s relationships with family members, friends and their overall growth, placing increased pressure on parents.
“Progress on age verification is not good enough ... I am concerned that your companies seem content with a situation where thousands of users breach your own terms and conditions on the minimum user age.
“I fear that you are collectively turning a blind eye to a whole generation of children being exposed to the harmful emotional side-effects of social media prematurely; this is both morally wrong and deeply unfair on parents, who are faced with the invidious choice of allowing children to use platforms they are too young to access, or excluding them from social interaction that often the majority of their peers are engaging in. It is unacceptable and irresponsible for you to put parents in this position.”
Although Hunt met with social media leaders in November, it is clear that little progress has been made since this time, leading Hunt to look at implementing new laws surrounding social media usage and the safety of younger users, and has tasked Chief Medical Officer, Dame Sally Davies, to look at the impact technology continues to play with respect to the mental health and wellbeing of users.
“Your industry boasts some of the brightest minds and biggest budgets globally. While these issues may be difficult, I do not believe that solutions are outside your reach: I do question whether [there] is sufficient will to reach them,” he added.
- Top areas of healthcare impacted by GDPR
- Comcast and Independence Health Group unite to drive the next stage of healthcare
- BenevolentAI secures $2bn valuation after raising $115mn in funding
However, whilst many social media platforms have yet to respond, such as Snapchat, Facebook and Google have both responded to the news, and have stressed their focus on protecting the safety of users.
“We welcome the Health Secretary’s continued engagement on this important issue and we share his ambition to create a safe and supportive environment for young people online,” commented Karim Palant, Facebook UK Public Policy Manager.
"We continue to invest heavily in developing tools for parents and age-appropriate products to meet this challenge and we look forward to continuing to work with our child safety partners and government to make progress in this area."
Google UK’s Public Policy Manager, Katie O’Donovan, expressed that it has supported parents with providing screen time limits across its operations, as well as a course which is now taught to children of school age.
However, The National Bullying Helpline, informed the BBC that unless the government tackles the issue, social media giants will continue to bypass the issue.
"Asking Facebook and other social media giants to regulate themselves is like asking the press to regulate themselves. It won't happen," it added.
Walmart, the next health tech giant - a timeline
Retail giant Walmart has been building its healthcare division for a number of years, but its recent acquisition of a telehealth firm and the slow down of its clinic expansion suggest its focus has now shifted to health tech. We look at key moments in Walmart's history in healthcare.
Walmart announces plans to provide "full primary care services" by 2020. The plans include opening clinics in underserved, urban areas, where the chain has many existing stores.
A series of “Healthcare Begins Here” events launch at Walmart stores, where consumers are given information on leading healthy lives, as well as free blood pressure, blood glucose and vision screenings, and access to vaccinations.
As part of the organisation's commitment to pursue a more data-centric approach to worker safety, Walmart partners with StrongArm, manufacturers of safety wearables. Staff begin wearing FUSE, a small sensor worn between their shoulder blades that detects injury risk. Within a year, ergonomic injuries decreased by 65%.
Walmart opens its first health centre in Dallas. The 10,000 square-foot "super centre" offers primary care, X-rays and ECG, counselling, dental, optical, hearing and community health services. Prices are affordable regardless of health insurance status.
The same year a partnership with Doctor on Demand is announced, a telehealth company offering mental health services. As part of the agreement Walmart employees are able to access these services for free.
The first health and wellness clinic opens in Springdale, Arkansas, providing primary care, dental care, vision and hearing services as well as behavioural health, fitness and wellness education classes.
Walmart acquires CareZone’s medication management technology. CareZone's app reminds users to take their medication and provides refill reminders. The acquisition complements Walmart's existing pharmacy service.
The Wall Street Journal reports that Walmart is in talks with Verizon to implement 5G wireless service in select sites, to help boost digital health services.
As part of its COVID-19 response, drive-thru testing is offered at hundreds of Walmart Neighborhood Market drive-thru pharmacy sites, free of charge through Humana .
The retail giant teams up with the Department of Veterans Affairs to offer telehealth services to veterans at stores in Wisconsin, Michigan and Iowa.
Walmart Mexico signs a deal with Jack Nathan Medical Corp, a Canadian tech-focused healthcare provider. This will see 153 new medical clinics open within stores across Mexico, taking the total in the country to 203.
Walmart announces it is acquiring MeMD, a multi-speciality telehealth provider. The acquisition will enable Walmart Health to provide access to virtual care across the US. At the same time it is reported that plans to open further clinics are deliberately slowing down.
"Today people expect omnichannel access to care, and adding telehealth to our Walmart Health care strategies allows us to provide in-person and digital care across our multiple assets and solutions" Dr. Cheryl Pegus, executive vice president for Health & Wellness said of the announcement.