Premiers want kids banned from social media platforms including Facebook, Instagram and TikTok

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Kristin Shorten
The Nightly
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The premiers of NSW, Queensland and Victoria all declared support to increase the age limit for users accessing social media platforms including Facebook, Instagram and TikTok.
The premiers of NSW, Queensland and Victoria all declared support to increase the age limit for users accessing social media platforms including Facebook, Instagram and TikTok. Credit: The Nightly

State premiers are backing calls to ban kids under 16 from social media amid rising alarm over the devastating impact the addictive platforms are having on young people’s lives.

On Monday, the premiers of NSW, Queensland and Victoria all declared support for a renewed push to increase the age limit for users accessing social media platforms including Facebook, Instagram and TikTok.

Currently users are supposed to be at least 13-years-old to create an account on the major social media platforms but this is not policed and there is no legal requirement to enforce the rule.

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Earlier this month South Australian Premier Peter Malinauskas appointed a former High Court chief justice to investigate options for his government to impose a social media ban on Australians under 14.

Under the proposal, parents would also have to give their consent for children aged 14 and 15 to access a social media account.

Mr Malinauskas’ Queensland counterpart agreed that users should be at least 14.

In an op-ed on Monday, Steven Miles said he supports calls for the age limit for social media access to be increased to 14 years, and tighter regulation on access to under-16s.

“I have spoken with South Australian Premier Peter Malinauskas, who has recently appointed former Chief Justice of the High Court Robert French AC to conduct a legal examination into banning children under the age of 14 from having social media accounts,” he wrote.

“Their government will share the outcomes of that examination with ours, to better understand how we could implement that ban in Queensland.”

Mr Miles said he believes the Australian government “needs to pull the levers available to them to ensure social media companies are acting responsibly in our communities”.

“Social media giants like Meta need to do better. If they won’t take the steps needed to keep our kids safe, then I will,” he wrote.

NSW Premier Chris Minns went further, saying he wants to increase the minimum age of social media users to 16.

At a press conference on Monday, Mr Minns said NSW would take tough action to increase the minimum age of users to 16 and called social media “a giant experiment that we’re conducting on young people”.

NSW Premier Chris Minns wants to increase the minimum age of social media users to 16.
NSW Premier Chris Minns wants to increase the minimum age of social media users to 16. Credit: AAP

Mr Minns said NSW preferred a national approach but his state would go it alone if a federal age minimum of 16 could not be legislated fast enough.

“There are jurisdictions around the world that are making change,” he said.

“You’ve seen that in Canada. You’ve seen that in different states in the United States. I think you are seeing for the first time major regulatory change (which) is finally on the table.

“My suspicion is it would be better to move as a nation (and) have Australia implement a (social media) ban at 16.

“But the NSW Government isn’t going to wait for that and we’re more than happy to talk with the South Australian government and anyone else about getting the dangers on the table and making sure that policy makers as well as parents understand what the impact of a lack of regulation for widespread ubiquitous social media use means for young people.”

NSW Deputy Premier Prue Car demanded action from giant companies like Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram.

“It is really realistic to look at age verification in terms of limiting our children’s interaction with social media,” she told Sunrise.

“I mean, they have some of the best technology in the world, surely they can come to the table with this sort of stuff.

“We need to get all the experts in one place…We are just seeing too many cases where the worst possible thing has occurred because of bullying online.”

Minns announced his government will host a summit in October to bring together young people, experts, policy makers and the tech giants to develop a response to growing community concern about the mental health impacts of social media.

“My hope is that this summit will offer a practical way forward, so young people can still enjoy the benefits of technology, while living full, happy lives outside their screens,” he said.

Victorian Premier Jacinta Allan said it was time for social media age limits to increase or for Australia to set its own rules.

“Our responsibility is to protect our kids, prepare them for the future,” she said.

The Prime Minister applauded efforts to explore age restriction measures.

Anthony Albanese acknowledged parents are “worried sick” about what their kids are seeing online and the mental health effects.

“(They are also concerned about) the mental health impact of some social media that we’ve seen be quite devastating and have terrible consequences for our youngest Australians,” he said.

“Parents are worried sick about what their kids have access to online. It is a major social issue in this country.

“We want to respond positively to the requests from parents that we do something about this.”

Mr Albanese said it was time for “strong action”.

“But we want to make sure that strong action is effective,” he said.

“We want to make sure that any measures that are put in place are effective, because one of the concerns which is there is that age protocols may be circumvented.”

In August, the e-Safety commissioner recommended the government develop an age assurance technology pilot and the federal government has now funded a $6.5 million trial intended to prevent access to underage porn, social media and gaming.

It will also test a range of technologies for safety, accuracy and privacy.

However, introducing age verification is complicated because while parents want age verification rules to stop young children using social media and accessing porn, new regulations could have privacy impacts for all Australians.

Under an age verification scheme, all Australians might have to provide their data in order to access social media, online porn or gaming.

Jacinta Allen in state parliament
Victorian Premier Jacinta Allan said it was time for social media age limits to increase or for Australia to set its own rules. Credit: AAP

This month the Albanese Government announced it would establish a Joint Parliamentary Select Committee into the influence and impacts of social media on Australian society.

The Coalition has been calling for age limits to be mandated on social media sites for some time.

Opposition leader Peter Dutton and communications spokesman David Coleman said in a statement the Coalition “strongly supports” age verification for social media.

“We’re seeing deeply disturbing trends in mental health for Australian children – especially girls – and we believe social media is a key part of the problem,” the statement said.

“It is 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.”

Social media age limits have already been legislated in countries such as Spain, as well as some US states, and age verification technology is already used in the banking sector.

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