Social media companies must face up to their responsibilities, Fine Gael TD Emer Higgins has said.
Deputy Emer Higgins, Dublin Mid West TD and Fine Gael spokesperson on social media, called on social media platforms to face up to their responsibility for children using their media, following an alarming study released by CyberSafe Kids to mark Safer Internet Day 2023.
Deputy Higgins said: “This study found that half of children 8-12-years-old already feel, at their young age, that they spend too much time online which is a real cause for concern in terms of internet addiction.
“And even more concerning is that almost a quarter of children have seen content on the internet they would not want their parents to know about,” added Deputy Higgins.
“Social media platforms have age limits but the facts are they are not policed because we know that children as young as 8-years-old are using these platforms and seeing content that would be distressing or damaging even for an adult, never mind a child.
“We know the algorithms on many social media platforms feed off of negative and abusive content. It’s where they make their most money and unless we put maximum pressure on social media platforms to protect young people on their platforms and protect them from harmful content then nothing will change,” Deputy Higgins continued.
“CyberSafeKids has joined forces with the National Parents Council to launch a new campaign called ‘Same Rules Apply’.
“This campaign calls on parents to approach parenting children online in the same way that they are parented offline.
“And while I really welcome parents being encouraged to take a more hands-on role in their children’s time online, I also think it’s very important that we don’t place all the responsibility on parents while allowing social media companies to take a back seat.
“The likes of Instagram, Snapchat and TikTok know they have massive numbers of children using their platforms and they need to either make it a safer environment or enforce their age restrictions more strictly.
“This is an area of real concern for parents and Government are committed to tackling harmful online content through the new Online Safety and Media Regulation Act and the online Safety Commission.
“Niamh Hodnett will shortly take up the role of Ireland’s first Online Safety Commissioner giving her the powers to hold internet platforms to account for harmful online content as well as implementing an individual complaints mechanism.
“But in order for these new measures to have maximum impact, we need social media platforms to work with us.
“I’m expecting the social media platforms who are headquartered in Ireland to fully engage with the Online Safety Commissioner to address the scourge of harmful online content, especially with regard to young people.
“This Safer Internet Day, we see that parents will do everything they can to keep their kids safe online and we will support them with the policy to do that but now we need the social media platforms to come to the table,” concluded Deputy Higgins.