HMC survey reveals pupils are rebelling against social media

HMC and Digital Awareness UK survey highlights that 63% of young people wouldn’t mind if social media hadn’t been invented

A survey conducted amongst more than nearly 5,000 students at independent and state schools by the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference (HMC), which represents the heads of the world’s leading independent schools, and Digital Awareness UK, reveals that young people are rebelling against the current state of social media, with almost two-thirds (63%) saying they wouldn’t mind if it had never been invented.

The findings of the survey, which sought to identify digital trends amongst 11 to 18 year olds, were launched at the HMC Annual Conference on 5th October.

Respondents highlighted the emotional impact social media is having on their wellbeing with 57% stating they’ve received abusive comments online; 56% feeling they are on the edge of addiction; and 52% saying social media makes them feel less confident about how they look or how interesting their life is.  More than 60% believe friends show a fake version of themselves on social media but 85% believe they do not do so themselves. 

The research also highlights what students like about social media. Internet ‘memes’, ‘filters/lenses’ and storytelling features, such as Snapchat Stories, are listed amongst the most popular social media trends. To improve their user experience, students have shared what social networks need to consider moving forward. For example, 73% would like less advertising, 61% want less fake news and 49% ask for greater privacy on social media platforms.

Chris King, Chair of HMC and Headmaster of Leicester Grammar School, said, “The findings of this poll may surprise teachers and parents but it will help them understand the pressures young people feel in the digital age. It is fascinating to see the first indications of a rebellion against social media and reminds us that they may need help to take breaks from its constant demands. The respondents also had clear advice to social networks about the need to consider the quality and trustworthiness of their content.

Charlotte Robertson, co-founder of Digital Awareness UK, added, ‘We speak to thousands of students on a daily basis about safe internet use and, while it’s a matter of concern to see the emotional impact social media is having on young people’s health and wellbeing, it’s encouraging to see that they are also employing smart strategies such as digital detoxing to take control of their social media use.”

The survey was carried out in September amongst students at state-funded and independent schools in England. Most of the responses came from students in Years 9, 10 and 11 of which 57% were female, 42% male and 1% other.