Time to act on Kate’s anti-social media call
KATE WINSLET’S tear-sodden Bafta acceptance speech on Sunday will sparkle forever as one of her best performances. Clutching the Best Actress gong for the film I Am Ruth – deservedly won for her portrayal of a mother trying to reach a daughter disappearing into the social media rabbit hole –Winslet was the mouthpiece of worried mums everywhere.
Alight with love for her daughter and co-star Mia Threapleton, 22, Kate voiced the most natural maternal desire on earth, saying: “If I could cut this in half, I’d give the other half to my daughter.” You don’t have to be an acclaimed actress to identify with that. We’ve all given our girls our last Rolo, our best party dresses, and money we were saving for something sensible. Naturally we’d big up their talents too.
Most importantly, Kate encapsulated the acute anxiety of parents exiled from their children’s lives by their immersion in the content luring them into online danger. Her phrase – “Families who feel they are held hostage by the perils of the online world” – spoke volumes.
Even tech-savvy mums and dads know there are areas of the internet they can’t access, and those who apply “parental control” are aware that when their children mix with peers whose parents have been less careful, an array of potentially dangerous material awaits them.
THE average age at which a child gets a smartphone here is seven. Schools rely on kids being online. Lockdown practically made access to the internet compulsory. Limiting screen time breeds resentment. Teenagers outwit their elders with strategies to surf the night away. I have interviewed parents of a little girl who was exposing herself to strangers; a boy who was being blackmailed after being tricked into pleasuring himself on camera, kids being co-opted online into “county lines” drug smuggling and others being sent suicide tips and advice about losing weight on anorexia sites. I’ll never forget a call from a mum whose gaming-addicted 15-yearold would urinate in his chair rather than leave the game. Social media giants ignore the hurt, the corruption of innocence and the destroyed relationships, and complacently bank their profits.
Kate’s right. Harmful content should now be criminalised and politicians must prioritise saving our young people. We don’t want it, and as Kate said: “We want our children back.”