‘Obnoxious’ social media faces state push for youth ban

Representatives from social media companies have appeared before an online safety inquiry.

Representatives from social media companies have appeared before an online safety inquiry. Photo: Getty

Millions of Australian children could be barred from using social media platforms under changes put forward by state premiers who want better protection of minors from online harm.

The leaders of NSW, Queensland and Victoria united on Monday in a push to lift age minimums on major platforms such as TikTok and the Meta-owned Facebook and Instagram.

All of the platforms require users to be at least 13 years old, but that limit could be lifted to as high as 16 under a proposal from NSW.

State leaders concede they might not have the power to legislate controls on the platforms, with several calling for a national regime.

South Australia is investigating if it can impose social-media bans for children aged under 14 and parental permission for those aged under 16.

Those changes would be a national first and follow legislated restrictions on children using social media accounts in nations such as Spain, as well as some US states.

NSW Premier Chris Minns said he wanted a minimum age of 16 for social media users, while Queensland counterpart Steven Miles nominated 14.

Victoria Premier Jacinta Allan did not specify a minimum age but called for the platforms’ limits to be raised or for Australia to set its own limits.

Meta and TikTok have been contacted for comment.

Minns said he was moved to act after seeing social media’s impact and his experience as a father of three boys.

“Obnoxious” social-media algorithms were “designed to keep children glued to the device rather than ripping it away and speaking with family and friends and getting out of the house”, he said.

NSW preferred a national approach but would go it alone if a federal age minimum of 16 could not be made to happen quickly, Minns said.

His government was yet to determine what power it had to regulate platforms at a state level, he said.

Federal Opposition Leader Peter Dutton said the coalition strongly supported age verification for social media, which was a key part of “deeply disturbing” trends in children’s mental health.

“It’s 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 on our children,” he said.

The federal Labor government has indicated it supports tighter restrictions on children accessing social media, which Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has identified as a national issue.

Health Minister Mark Butler said a potential age limit was still being worked out while a verification trial was completed using funding allocated in the recent budget.

“We’ve got to get the age right and we’ve got to get the technological implementation right,” he said.

Miles said he had seen little evidence social media companies cared what Australian policy makers thought and it was time for tighter federal regulation.

WA Health Minister Amber-Jade Sanderson said her government was looking at what levers were available to protect minors from social media harm.

The NSW government on Monday also announced a state summit to look at the impact of social media platforms on young people involving policy makers, academics and company representatives.


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