Reports Government plans to curb under-16s’ social media use ‘speculation’

15 December 2023, 09:34

A young girl using a phone and laptop
Young ethnic African American girl teenager uses laptop and phone at same time, sits on sofa at home. Picture: PA

Science minister Andrew Griffith would not be drawn on reports the Government was considering plans to restrict social media access for teenagers.

The science minister has said reports that the UK Government is considering restricting under-16s’ social media use is “speculation”.

Andrew Griffith said Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s administration “isn’t a Government that philosophically bans things for the sake of it”.

It has been reported that the Government is considering launching a consultation in the new year around possible restrictions being placed on those under the age of 16 using social media platforms, in an effort to bolster UK online safety laws.

According to reports, the plans could see teenagers required to gain their parents’ permission before setting up an account on sites such as Facebook, Instagram and TikTok.

Asked whether he could provide more details on the possible plans, Mr Griffith told LBC radio: “I can’t because this is speculation. At this point, it is about a consultation that is rumoured to happen in the new year.”

He added: “I guess if you look forward to what else, what more the Government could be doing, that would be the logic behind a consultation.

“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.”

The Conservative minister said it was “right you don’t just charge off and do these things”, and that industry needed to be consulted about any potential new social media restrictions.

“Let me just emphasise it is about a balance. This isn’t a Government that philosophically bans things for the sake of it, but it is about putting parents in control and protecting our children,” he said.

A Government spokesperson said it “did not comment on speculation”, but added that its “commitment 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.”

The Online Safety Act passed into law in November, and requires social media companies to curb the spread of illegal content on their platforms and protect children from seeing potentially harmful material, with large fines among the potential penalties for those who breach the new rules.

By Press Association

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