Social media must be done ‘less addictive’

Social media companies need to limit the functionality to hook young people on the devices, the Children’s Commissioner for England, Anne Longfield, said.

Streaks, number of consecutive days that people have sent Snapchat messages to others, should be ignored, he told the Telegraph.

She also highlighted the autoplay of the video, and algorithms that identify interests in order to serve young people with more content.

Snapchat has said his streaks are not designed to create dependency.

In an interview with the newspaper, Ms Longfield said: “I would like all these to be looked at and really reduced, if not removed.

“The Internet is set to be addictive. All the algorithms on it are quietly working to keep us dependent, if it is dots that come to say that someone is writing a reply, the YouTube video that goes to the next in a nanosecond.”

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A Snapchat spokesperson said that Snapstreaks are designed to allow friendships to deepen in the course of time and were intended to be light and fun.

In recent updates, the streaks indicator was made smaller to make them less of a focus, the spokesperson added.

The UK Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Secretary Matt Hancock does not allow his own young children mobile phones.

The Children’s Commissioner’s words echo those of the Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, who said earlier this year that spending too much time on sites such as Facebook could pose a big threat to children’s health as being obese.

He met with the leaders of Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Google and Apple to discuss the problems.

He asked them if they could provide evidence of what constitutes too much time online and if they are able to provide ways to warn the children that have passed that period of time.

From the meeting, Apple introduced the Time Limit in its latest operating system. This will allow users to pre-determine the amount of time that must pass using a single app, and starting a warning when this allowance is used.

And, at its developer conference, Google also focused on moves to reduce screen time, with the pop-up on YouTube to tell young people to “take a break” after a certain period of time pre-determined by the parents.