New law banning under-13s from social media proposed by UK health secretary
Anew law banning under13s from social media has been proposed by health secretary Matt Hancock. He said Facebook, What's App and other social media giants should be legally required to stop under-aged children joining their sites.
He accused the companies of doing “absolutely nothing” to stop under-13s getting onto sites like Facebook or under16s using What's App. Asked if there should be a minimum and enforced legal age requirement in an interview in Parliament's House magazine, he said: “Yes, yes there should. Absolutely.”
Ofcom estimates a quarter of eight to 11 year olds have social media accounts, often gaining access by lying about their age.
But Mr Hancock said: "The terms and conditions of the main social media sites are that you shouldn't use it under the age of 13, but the companies do absolutely nothing to enforce against that. And they should, I think that should be a requirement.”
“You shouldn't be on WhatsApp, according to their own terms and conditions, before you're 16.
“And yet, the pressures that people feel under when they're on a WhatsApp group to respond, to wake up in the middle of the night to get back to messages – this is teenagers or young kids who aren't even teenagers yet.
“So, if the company say that you shouldn't be on it till 16, they should do something about that and they should empower parents to allow it to happen.”
He said a legal ban would be considered as part of the chief medical officer Dame Sally Davies's investigation into ensuring “age-appropriate” use of social media. She is also reviewing the impact of social media on children's mental health.
Mr Hancock suggested the companies may have contributed to a rise in self-harm which had been seen in teenage girls but not teenage boys. “That implies that something happened in the last decade to increase the pressure on teenage girls,” he said.