Social media giants must ensure appropriate safety features are in place for children and teenagers

22nd January 2021 - Senator Micheál Carrigy

Social media giants must ensure they have appropriate safety features in place for children and teenagers using their platforms, a Fine Gael Senator has said.

Micheál Carrigy, who is Fine Gael spokesperson for Art, Media, Sport and Tourism, said social media companies have a responsibility to young users to ensure their privacy and safety, which should be reflected in their terms of use.

Senator Carrigy said, “This week I had the opportunity to meet with TikTok Head of Child Safety and their Director of Government Relations and Public Policy, where we discussed their recent announcement that anyone under the age of 16 signing up to the short video sharing app TikTok from 13th January will have their accounts set by default so that they will have to approve who can follow them and view their videos.

“The privacy-by-default and comment changes for under-16s are part of a wider package that is aimed at improving safety and privacy on the platform, according to TikTok.  The changes made by TikTok represent a notable development by the social network which, like many other platforms, is coming under scrutiny for how it protects its younger audiences.

“These latest improvements from TikTok mark a major step forward in enhancing the privacy and safety of children on their platform.

“Privacy by default, removing the ability for strangers to comment on children’s videos and restricting downloads are important steps in the fight against the grooming, sexual exploitation and abuse of children online.

Senator Carrigy has reiterated his call for social media companies to fund a social media awareness/safety campaign in Primary and Post Primary Schools in a bid to educate the younger generation on the effects that social media can have.

“Whilst this is a very positive step by TikTok and we hope to see other social media platforms follow suit, the reality of the situation is that children need to be educated on the good and bad of engaging on social media platform. I believe there is no one better placed to do this than the social media companies themselves, in conjunction with the Department of Education,” Senator Carrigy concluded.

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