Ministers considering social media and mobile phone sale ban for children under 16

Children aged under 16 could be banned from social media under plans set to be unveiled by the government within weeks, reports have suggested.

The consultation will also propose banning under-16s from buying smartphones.

A Department for Science, Innovation and Technology spokesman said: “We do not comment on speculation. Our commitment to making the UK the safest place for children to be online is unwavering, as evidenced by our world-leading Online Safety Act.”

Facebook and WhatsApp could be among the applications facing tougher age restrictions.

The consultation on protecting children online will seek parents’ views on when children should be allowed to “access” social media websites, with an age range provided between 13 and 16.

Most platforms allow children as young as 13 to sign up as members, including social media giant Meta which last week lowered the minimum age required to use WhatsApp in Europe to 13 from 16.

Under-18s are not allowed to take out phone contracts without parental consent, but can buy pay-as-you-go phones.

The proposed changes would prevent this for under-16s but not stop parents from buying their children phones.

The mother of the murdered transgender teenager Brianna Ghey has insisted her daughter would “without a doubt” still be alive if greater smartphone safeguards had been in place.

Esther Ghey’s daughter was killed by two teenagers, including one, Scarlett Jenkinson, who had previously watched videos involving murder and torture online.

Ms Ghey said: “We’d like a law introduced so that there are mobile phones that are only suitable for under-16s.

“So if you’re over 16 you can have an adult phone, but then under the age of 16, you can have a children’s phone, which will not have all of the social media apps that are out there now.”

Ms Ghey has also called for software which would “flag up” on parents’ phones if they children were searching for concerning key words.

More in Common polled 2,050 adults in Great Britain in February on their attitudes to smartphones.

Asked whether the introduction of smartphones and social media apps had been a good or bad thing for young people, 67 per cent thought they had been bad and only 20 per cent said they had been good.

Sixty-four per cent of people thought that a ban on selling smartphones to under-16s would be a good idea, compared to 20 per cent who said it was a bad idea.

Meanwhile an online petition supportive of a ban has amassed more than 19,000 signatures.

SOURCE

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