Government may consider cracking down on under-16s' social media use

15 December 2023, 12:58

The Online Safety Bill passed on October 26 this year.
The Online Safety Bill passed on October 26 this year. Picture: Alamy

By Ana Truesdale

The Prime Minister may consider measures that would further protect children from harmful content online after the introduction of the Online Safety Bill.

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The government could launch a consultation next year to implement more restrictions for social media use for under-16s.

Parents might have to give explicit permission for their children to create an account on social media websites like TikTok and Facebook.

Speaking to Nick Ferrari at Breakfast, technology minister Andrew Griffith said reports of the consultation are “all speculation.”

He said the current administration “isn’t a government that philosophically bans things for the sake of it.”

Nick Ferrari speaks to Technology minister Andrew Griffith about social media proposals

When asked about the speculated consultation, Mr Griffith said: “It is about getting that balance. I know parents worry about these things; some bad things happen out there on social media. If we can help parents, then we will, but it is always about a balance.”

He emphasised that the government is interested in “putting parents in control and protecting our children.”

A government spokesperson said it “did not comment on speculation”, but added that the government is committed to “making the UK the safest place to be a child online is unwavering, as evidenced by our landmark Online Safety Act.

“In doing this, we also recognise the benefits of safe social media use to children as they learn about the world around them.”

To create an account on TikTok, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, or Snapchat, you have to be at least 13 years old.

These platforms don’t have age verification, so it’s easy for somebody to lie about their age when creating an account.

The Online Safety Bill became law in November.

Read more: Campaigners could make online safety super-complaints to Ofcom, Government says

Read more: New rules unveiled to protect young children on social media under the Online Safety Act

Companies like Meta, Apple and Wikipedia will have to adhere to rules that strive to protect vulnerable online users from inappropriate and potentially dangerous content - such as material concerning self-harm.

It will also force adult websites to properly enforce age limits, hold platforms responsible for any illegal content, such as child sexual abuse images, and stop underage children from making social media accounts.

If a social media company fails to protect children from harmful content online, then it faces fines of up to £18m or 10% of its annual global revenue.

The bill also makes cyber-flashing and sharing ‘deepfake’ pornography new criminal offences.

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