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The UK government, led by Rishi Sunak, is contemplating restrictions or a potential ban on social media access for individuals under the age of 16

The UK government, led by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, is considering measures to restrict or potentially ban social media access for individuals under the age of 16. Speculation has arisen about the possibility of a complete ban despite the recent enactment of the Online Safety Act, which imposes obligations on social media platforms to protect minors from harmful content under the threat of fines amounting to 10% of a company’s global revenue.

In an upcoming consultation set to begin in the new year, the cabinet will explore the risks faced by children using social media platforms. Although a complete ban on social media for those under 16 is a possibility, a government spokesperson downplayed such notions, emphasizing the focus on empowering parents rather than implementing specific crackdowns. The spokesperson stated that there is a gap in research, and further investigation is needed.

The Molly Rose Foundation, established by the family of Molly Russell, who tragically took her own life at the age of 14 after encountering harmful content on Instagram and Pinterest, stressed the need to strengthen the role of the communications watchdog, Ofcom. Advocates for online safety, including Andy Burrows, an adviser to the foundation, called for additional measures to protect children from online risks, emphasizing the need to strengthen the regulator’s authority.



Rishi Sunak-led UK government considers limiting, banning social media  access for under-16 teens
Rishi Sunak-led UK government considers limiting, banning social media access for under-16 teens

Cross-bench peer Beeban Kidron, a prominent advocate for children’s online safety, expressed concerns about potential knee-jerk reactions and advocated for designing digital spaces that support teenagers rather than excluding them. Kidron criticized the addictive, polarizing, and unrealistic nature of social media platforms, stating that they create an unfavorable environment for spending teenage years.

While the government’s deputy official spokesperson refrained from commenting on specific proposals, they confirmed a broad examination of the issue of keeping children safe online. Calls for robust online safety regulation have been persistent since 2017, culminating in the creation of the Online Safety Act in the autumn. The NSPCC children’s charity revealed that police recorded 34,400 online grooming crimes against children in the UK in the six years leading up to the legislation.

Recent concerns about child safety on social media intensified after Meta’s decision to introduce encrypted messaging on Facebook, prompting the National Crime Agency to caution parents about potential risks. Policing minister Chris Philp criticized Meta’s move as “grossly irresponsible” and called for its immediate reversal to prevent hindrances in combating child abuse. UK’s Schools Minister Damian Hinds echoed these sentiments, emphasizing the importance of law enforcement agencies retaining the ability to intercept and investigate individuals engaging in child abuse, stating that the issue is not merely about privacy but about ensuring child safety.

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