7.8 Current debates and reforms
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The Minister of Social Affairs discusses the design of digital media with tech companies in June 2023
Minister of Social Affairs Jakob Forssmed has invited representatives of a number of large digital media platforms to a meeting to discuss the use of social media, its design and impact on the mental health of children and young people.
With access to digital media in phones over the past decade, the lives of children and young people have been reshaped at high speed. While technology has brought enormous advances and opportunities, research also shows that digital media can have negative effects on young people's mental health, and that its widespread use has crowding-out effects in the form of less physical activity, sleep, reading and time for relationships.
Representatives of Google, Meta (Facebook, Instagram) and Tiktok in Sweden have been invited to the meeting. In addition, meetings will also take place with other major digital platforms, such as Snapchat.
Digital media use and mental and physical health as well as cognitive development among children and young people
In May 2023, the government commissioned the Public Health Agency and the Swedish Media Council, to compile a knowledge base on the connection between digital media use and effects on mental and physical health as well as cognitive development among children and young people. Based on the compilation of knowledge and the state of research, age-appropriate guidance and recommendations for digital media use among children and young people aged 0–18 shall be developed and disseminated.
Quality health care for children and young people
The government has in December 2019 commissioned a special investigator to review the conditions of health care for children and young people. The purpose of the assignment is to attain a more equal health care with preventative and health-promoting efforts for children and young people throughout the country. The intention is also to relieve the specialized child and adolescent psychiatry.
In May 2021, the investigator presented an interim report. The main proposals are the following:
- Children and young people need health-promoting and preventive care. The investigator therefore proposes rules that make healthcare's responsibility for health-promoting and preventive work against children and young people more equal across the country.
- The investigator proposes a health care programme that clarifies what kind of healthcare and support children and young people and their parents should be offered.
This makes the care for children and young people more equal, regardless of where in the country they live or which school they go to. It also makes it easier to detect and help children and young people at an early stage.
More suggestions and recommendations in brief:
- Make it easier for children and young people to get a permanent healthcare contact.
- Strengthen collaboration between healthcare and school.
- Strengthen collaboration between healthcare, social services and dentistry.
- Make children and young people more involved in planning and designing healthcare.
- Create a safer transition from child healthcare to adult healthcare.
The investigator proposes that healthcare for children and young people with mental health problems is to be developed in six steps:
- The whole society has a responsibility for mental health. For example, preschool and school are important in reducing the risk of children and young people starting to feel unwell.
- A cohesive care that works on the basis of the healthcare programme can find and help children and young people with mental illness at an early stage.
- Primary healthcare is given a clearer responsibility. Those who have mental health issues should be able to turn there in the first place.
- Primary care receives more resources to meet children and young people with mental health issues.
- Specialized care should support primary care and student health, and help determine who can receive help from primary care and who needs specialized care.
- The specialized care, social services, preschool and school need to co-operate on children and young people with extensive and long-term care needs.
In October 2021, the final report was presented. The report states that it is necessary to monitor different aspects of the health of children and young people, from pregnancy to the age of 20, from a health-promoting and preventive perspective. The main proposal is to proceed with investigating whether it is possible and appropriate to monitor the health of children and young people in national health data registers. If judged as possible, then the constitutional proposals that are necessary should be taken.