South Australia Wants to Ban Kids From Facebook and Instagram

South Australia Wants to Ban Kids From Facebook and Instagram

South Australian Premier Peter Malinauskas has flagged that the state is looking into banning kids below the age of 14 from social media websites like Facebook, TikTok, and Instagram.

The ban, if introduced, would be an Australian first, and follow in the footsteps of Florida, which banned social media access for 14-year-olds and younger last year (15 and 16-year-olds could sign up with parental consent).

This potential ban comes at a time when the Australian Government is preparing an inquiry into the negative effects of social media.

“We are seeing mounting evidence from experts of the adverse impact of social media on children, their mental health and development,” South Australian Premier Malinauskas said on Twitter (X).

“Like most parents, I am concerned about the impact social media is having on children in our community. I am determined to ensure as a government we are doing everything we can to protect our children.”

A ban of this type is something that world leaders mull over now and again – UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak reportedly considered a ban in December, and earlier this month, an expert panel recommended to French President Emmanuel Macron that children and teens should limit smartphone and social media access.

A report from ReachOut released in September 2023 detailed that some 79 per cent of young people surveyed noticed a moderate or major impact on their wellbeing – however, only four per cent of young people labelled it as the most concerning issue.

Forty-eight per cent labelled study stress as the most concerning issue, followed by 44 per cent for future stress, and 29 per cent for finances and cost of living stress. An April report, which assessed parents and carers, indicated that 59 per cent of respondents were concerned about young people’s use of social media.

The effectiveness of such a ban, however, would need to be determined. After all, unless a social media site asks for personal information like driver’s licences, how would it possibly prevent young people from accessing its content? And when they access that content without explicit permission, what would then happen if something went wrong?

The question remains if a ban would remain effective, some commentators aren’t so sure.

“We know from attempts at prevention of other areas of social harms, such as underage sex or access to drugs or alcohol, that bans do not eliminate these behaviours. However, we do know that bans will mean young people will not trust adults’ reactions if they are upset by something and want to seek help,” Professor of IT Ethics and Digital Rights at Bournemouth University Andy Phippen wrote in a Conversation piece in February. A study cited by Phippen in his piece also noted that, at large, there’s no link between social media adoption and negative well-being.

“By putting up barriers and bans, we erode trust between those who could be harmed and those who can help them. While these suggestions come with the best of intentions, sadly they are doomed to fail. What we should be calling for is better understanding from adults, and better education for young people instead,” Phippen added.

Social media platforms broadly already have age requirements, TikTok users under 13 years old are restricted heavily on what they can do on the platform, while Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter (X) all strictly require the user to be at least 13.

That’s not to say that social media doesn’t hurt young people – we absolutely shouldn’t let the likes of Meta and X off the hook for offering a platform to predators, nor should we forgive social media apps for the impact they can have on body image, or how easily it is for abuse imagery to be spread on such platforms.

“This nation-leading move will see former Chief Justice of the High Court Robert French AC tasked with examining the legal, regulatory and technological pathways for the State Government to impose a ban, while also giving due consideration to the constitutional framework,” Premier Malinauskas added.

“In addition to imposing a ban on all children under the age of 14 having access to a social media account, South Australia would also require parental consent for children aged 14 and 15. The changes would be the first of their type in Australia but would follow a growing number of global jurisdictions banning social media access for children.”

Watch this MySpace (sorry).

Image: Disney

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