A teenager has advised MP’s in Parliament about the affects social media can have on young people’s mental health for a children’s charity. 

Orlaith Lindsay from Harrow addressed the Science and Technology Committee on behalf of Barnardo’s on July 4 with a handful of others, about how they use social media to deal with online dangers.

Orlaith has helped to develop Barnardo’s Harrow Horizons mental health and well-being service since it launched two years ago. 

The 17-year-old spoke to MPs about her reaction to seeing “inappropriate material” posted online and that of her parents who “do not always understand”. 

Orlaith Lindsay, (second from right) with MPs and fellow young people at the Commons Science and Technology Committee

Harrow Times:

Orlaith said: “I find it quite satisfying now I’m older to report inappropriate material. At first, it’s a shock and you want to scroll past it quickly. But the longer you use it, you become quickly desensitised by it, and the older I get the less affected I am. I’m not shocked by it anymore.

“If you report something it might vanish for you, but it doesn’t vanish for anyone else. Moderation and reporting needs to be better.

“Young people worry that if they tell, their parents will take social media out of their lives. Parents need to have an open conversation without repercussions. It’s not your fault if you see inappropriate material that other people are posting.”

Orlaith went on to say how easily a person can lose track of time on social media referencing people she knew who had stayed online until “the sun rises”. She recommended a warning system alerting people to how long they had been online. 

She added: “Social media can be positive if you are following the right people. I see people posting about self-care, support for mental health - the type of things you don’t get taught in schools.”

Lynn Gradwell, director of Barnardo’s in London, said: “It’s vital that our decision-makers in Parliament understand the reality of how children and young people use social media, and how it can affect their mental health and wellbeing. The best way to do that is to hear it from the young people themselves, and I want to thank Orlaith for giving such a confident, honest and articulate account to the committee.”