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South Australia Moves To Ban Social Media Access For Children

Social media children (Image: Sourced from Unsplash)

Recently, the Peter Malinauskas government in South Australia appointed former Chief Justice of the High Court Robert French AC to conduct a legal examination into the possibility of banning children under the age of 14 from having social media accounts.

In addition to imposing a ban on all children under the age of 14 having access to a social media account, South Australia would also require parental consent for children aged 14 and 15.

In a statement issued by the Premier’s office, it pointed to a survey by Australian mental health service ReachOut this year that found social media is the number one issue of concern among parents and carers of children with 59 per cent saying they were concerned about their child’s use of social media and 55 per cent saying social media had a significant impact on their child’s well-being.

While the measures being drawn up by South Australia – a decision that Australia’s Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has said that he “applauds” – are in the planning stage, authorities in countries abroad are also ringing the alarm bell with regard to the effects that social media is having on the young members of their communities.

In a very significant move, on Thursday, New York Governor Kathy Hochul signed legislation barring social media companies from bombarding children with “addictive” feeds. The “SAFE for Kids Act” cracks down on apps — such as TikTok and Instagram — and will essentially prevent those social media platforms from feeding users under the age of 18 content using algorithms that are tailored to keep them scrolling, will give parents the ability to pause notifications on their kids’ social media accounts between 12am and 6am and also bar social media companies from selling data generated by users under the age of 18. The governor has gone one step further and pledged to work towards banning smartphones in schools next.

Other US states have already taken similar measures. In March, Florida legislated to ban social media accounts for children under 14, and require parental permission for 14- and 15-year-olds, while Texas has legislated to require parental consent before allowing a user under the age of 18 to open an account.

In Europe, Spain also bans children under 14 from accessing a social network.

“We are seeing mounting evidence from experts of the adverse impact of social media on children, their mental health and development. I am determined to ensure as a government we are doing everything we can to protect our children,” said Malinauskas.

The former chief justice, French, has been tasked with examining the legal, regulatory and technological pathways for the South Australian government to impose its proposed ban, while ensuring that any decision made is in line with the constitution.

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