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All leaders: Time for ‘action’ on social media harming our kids

Written by on May 20, 2024

Anthony Albanese has declared it is time to take “strong action” to protect young Australians from social media harms, throwing his support behind an age limit with “effective” enforcement.

The Prime Minister said the federal government wanted to “respond positively” to Australian parents’ pleas for help tackling the issue, which has had “devastating” and “terrible consequences” for the mental health and wellbeing of children and teens.

As the premiers of Australia’s three biggest states come forward in support of tougher regulation around underage access to social media, the Commonwealth is seeking advice about what a feasible and appropriate age ban would look like.

Mr Albanese said in addition to a $6.5 million age verification trial, Labor had already quadrupled funding for the eSafety Commissioner and launched a joint inquiry into the social media giants to examine the issues and ensure “any impediments that are put in place that restrict young people from having access to social media will work”.

“We want to make sure that any measures that are put in place are effective, because one of the concerns is … that age protocols may be circumvented by users at the moment,” he said.

The PM said parents were rightly “worried sick” about what their kids have access to online, and praised the Let Them Be Kids campaign launched on Sunday.

“I think this is an example of the media playing a really positive role on an issue that’s of such concern to parents,” he said.

Currently major social media platforms like Tiktok, Facebook, Instagram and X require users to be at least 13-years-old to create an account.

But there is no legal requirement to enforce the rule and experts have pointed to a wealth of examples of underage users as proof the age limit across all platforms is not policed.

Opposition leader Peter Dutton and communications spokesman David Coleman said in a statement the Coalition “strongly supports” age verification for social media.

“We’re seeing deeply disturbing trends in mental health for Australian children – especially girls – and we believe social media is a key part of the problem,” the statement said.

“It is difficult to make the case for children under the age of 16 being on social media, especially when we’ve seen the harmful effects that it can have.”

Queensland Premier Steven Miles said he supported the age limit for social media to be increased to 14, and “tighter regulation” on access to under 16-year-olds.

“The Australian Government needs to pull the levers available to them to ensure social media companies are action responsibly in our communities,” he said.

Victorian Premier Jacinta Alan said it was “time” minimum age barriers on social media were raised, or that Australia set its own rules.

“Our responsibility is to protect our kids, prepare them for the future,” she said.

NSW Premier Chris Minns said his government was hosting a special summit in October to bring together young people, experts, policy makers and the tech giants to develop a response to growing community concern about the mental health impacts of social media.

“My hope is that this summit will offer a practical way forward, so young people can still enjoy the benefits of technology, while living full, happy lives outside their screens,” he said.

Originally published as Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, Opposition leader Peter Dutton and state premiers signal support for social media age limits