Kate Winslet calls for the government to act over the impact of social media on children’s mental health.

Kate Winslet is to star in ‘I Am Ruth’, a two-hour drama, which looks at the mental health crisis affecting young people in the UK.

‘I Am Ruth’ is part of the BAFTA winning female-led, ‘I Am’ drama anthology for Channel 4, created by filmmaker Dominic Savage, and developed and co-written by both Winslet and Savage.

Winslet plays the title character, a single mother of two, who sees her daughter Freya, played by her real life daughter Mia Threapleton, retreating into herself and becoming increasingly consumed by the pressures of social media.

The film shows Freya becoming less communicative, her falling behind at school and the impact on the relationship between mother and daughter, as Ruth struggles to find a way to help her with her declining mental health.

‘I Am Ruth’ is not entirely fictional, nor is it based on a true story as such, but lies somewhere in-between, as some of the emotional scenes were inspired by Winslet’s own experience of being a mother to teenagers, along with real-life events and conversations she has had with friends about their children, which she used as a framework. Although the plot was scripted, like previous I Am films, the dialogue is entirely improvised.

She said: “I’ve been a parent to teenagers and I’ve also been on the periphery of friends raising teenagers who have gone through some absolutely horrific things. So a lot of the conversations that you hear, and even specific words that come out of my mouth, are direct from things that friends have said to me. And I wanted to honour those stories, and along with Mia, we wanted to tell a story of our time, without preaching.”

Kate has said that the government should make social media firms enforce age limits to help tackle their impact on children’s mental health, and help their children navigate social media as they become increasingly more obsessed with their phones.

She said “We don’t know really what’s going on in their friendship groups anymore because so much of it is actually built on phones, inside phones. This world that you can burrow deeper and deeper into it, and it becomes darker and trickier and much, much harder for children to navigate. I think because people, young children, are having phones at a much earlier age, they’re able to access things that emotionally they’re just not equipped or sophisticated enough to know how to process.”

Winslet has also said that security checks could be more rigorous and those in power should step up to protect children and investigate how social media impacts on their self-esteem, along with the correlation between online use and issues such as self-harm and eating disorders.

She said: “I do wish that our government would crack down on it. I do wish that there would be certain platforms that were banned before a certain age. I wish that security checks would be much more rigorous. There should be more protection and accountability. I just think that the people who know that they could do better to protect our children should just be doing that. Whoever those people are, they know who they are, they should just step up and do better”

Winslet’s comments come as controversial measures which would have forced big technology platforms to take down legal but harmful material have been axed from the governments Online Safety Bill aimed at regulating internet content.

The film delves into issues such as body image, particularly with teenage girls, which Winslet herself has talked in the past after being bullied for her weight at school and during her film career.

She said: “Because of what I had experienced, it was really important to me that we looked at that. It resonates with so many people, so many parents, who just watch their children refusing to eat, [saying] ‘I’m fat. I hate myself. I’m not gonna go out. I’m not gonna wear this.’ These are sentences that come out of teenagers’ mouths all the time, that parents hear all the time.”

The film also addresses the alarming issue of teenagers feeling pressured to post intimate photos on social media. In one scene, Freya posts sexual images of herself online and is then upset by the comments that follow.

She said: “Teenagers are growing up in a much more sexualised society. It’s horrifying what children can access online these days. What upsets me most are the ideas that are being fed to young boys and young men about what women’s bodies actually look like. Because so much of that is inaccurate. So women are automatically feeling judged or insecure, or scrutinised. A huge number of young women are digitally altering, not just their faces, but their entire bodies [in] images of themselves online. And that is enormously sad. Because when that person then looks in the mirror and sees what they really look like, half the time they don’t like what they see.”

With the hard-hitting film, Winslet hopes that it can serve as a conversation starter by highlighting the mental health issues being faced by teenagers stemming from social media use, the helplessness parents feel in tackling these issues and the crucial need to safeguard children.

The actor previously revealed: “Everyone knows that social media, whilst it can be a positive thing for some, for other teenagers it can completely consume their worlds and not necessarily in positive ways. We just wanted to tell a story that was honest and highlighted those issues that are so extraordinarily prevalent at the moment, and alarmingly so”

I Am Ruth is on Channel 4 at 9 pm on Thursday 8th December

Watch the trailer below:

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