Should kids be banned from social media?

Recently South Australian Premier, Peter Malinauskas announced the government was considering a ban on social media for children under 14. Former Chief Justice of the High Court Robert French AC is preparing for a legal examination.

This follows the Labor government’s announcement of a “porn passport” trial to prevent children from accessing explicit adult material online.

Over 6 months, 15% of young people reported receiving threats or abuse online. And, 44% said they had a negative experience. These statistics are alarming but not surprising — it makes sense the government wants to “do something.”

While protecting kids is a priority, some questions need to be asked.

How do you define social media?

Social media is any platform where content can be shared or created. So, before we get into the logistics, let’s ask the question — how will the government decide which social media apps to ban?

Only 19% of teens use Facebook every day, and only 23% have X (Twitter) accounts. Will these “old people” apps even be on the radar?

Keep in mind, most social media platforms including Facebook, TikTok, Snapchat and Instagram already have a minimum age of 13 years old.

Does social media include Facetime, Messenger Kids and YouTube Kids?

Will a ban on social media change behaviour?

The problems don’t end with socials. 11.7% of teenagers have sent illicit text messages and everything from Google Docs to surveys are used to humiliate or bully each other.

Not to mention “fight club” videos that can be shared between phones with a chain reaction.

These are out of the scope of social media, and a ban will just move the issues elsewhere. Putting the lid back on the internet isn’t possible.

“14” may sound like the magic number but going from 0% to 100% may be a culture shock to young minds. Plus, those over 14 can still participate in negative behaviours regardless of their life circumstances — take this recent case of year 11 private school students.

How will the government ban social media and adult content?

Now for the question that will impact all of us, not just our young people. In Australia, we have mandatory data retention laws. This is why when companies such as Medibank and Optus are breached, details from previous customers have been stolen — even years down the track.

Verifying a person’s age will require some kind of identification. It may be a photo ID, birth certificate or facial recognition. Once verified, the eSafety Commissioner suggests an electronic token can be given by a “trusted private provider.”

What is a trusted private provider? Is it a company with the highest level of security, like a financial institution? Recently, FirstMac, Australia’s self-proclaimed leading non-bank lender had a massive data breach that saw sensitive information on the dark web. From telecommunications providers to the government’s own census (remember 2016?), any data collection will be fraught with risk.

Who is going to see this information, where will it be stored and what else will it be used for? Do we want our kids in the “system” before they are old enough to vote?

Putting it back in the hands of parents

Social media has negative consequences for many people. Even adults can suffer from bullying, intimidation and threats online.

Let parents decide when to buy their child a phone, what filters to put on and whether they turn the internet off at night. Keep educating children, remove phones from the schoolyard, open their doors, and be positive role models.

If the government would like to help, put money into after-school sports. With the cost of living pressures, this is an expense most parents struggle with. Being part of the community and playing in teams with their peers is the first step to getting kids off the screens.

Do you really want to give up more personal data just so you can check a Facebook message? Or, is this a ploy to dissuade people from using these platforms?

Let’s keep the government out of our homes and consider the impact of verifying our own identities.

What do you think? Should kids be banned from social media? Let us know in the comments section below.

One thought on “Should kids be banned from social media?

  1. Interesting article. It is scarey hearing and watching teenagers on their phone all the time. We worry about our two of our grandkids who seem to be on their phones all the time and they are nearly 8 and 10. Parents have locked their accounts but always on them playing games but also put them up so close to their eyes.

    Govt can control what happens at school but the parents are quite able to do what they want with their kids with phones in their own homes. I am just glad my kids grew up in the years of mobiles weren’t even on the market to have at school. They were busy with their sports and homework.

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