Dame Esther Rantzen: In 1986 children called Childline about abuse and neglect - now it's social media

Esther Rantzen

Monday, February 4, 2019

Dame Esther Rantzen has revealed that social media troubles are behind a large number of calls made to her counselling service, Childline.

The broadcaster said that volunteers at her 24-hour helpline told her "universally and unanimously" that social media was the cause of unhappiness in many of their young callers.

"Back in 1986 when we launched Childline, people were talking about things that other people were doing to them like abuse, neglect and bullying, but this is different," Ms Rantzen told Julia Hartley-Brewer.



Ms Rantzen appeared on the breakfast show to discuss the news that the rate of teenage suicide has almost doubled over the last eight years.

"When I go around the Childline bases and talk to our counsellors about the unhappiness young people are expressing to us, I ask them to explain this unhappiness, what is making young people so unhappy?," Ms Rantzen said. "Universally, unanimously, they say social media."

"It acts as an echo chamber, as we see with things like self harm. It may show them ways which appear to be coping mechanisms, but are very dangerous."


'I'm not on social media - I don't want in'

She added that she had no desire to become a social media user herself, telling Hartley-Brewer: "I'm not on any social media. I don't want in, I don't need it."

"We want our young people to be confident and happy on the internet, and finding new ways of exploring their own potential," she said.

"The building blocks of self-confidence happen at some, so let's sure we meet each other, eat together and reassure each other."