Australian Leaders Plan to Block Under-16s from Major Social Media Platforms

There is now bipartisan support in Australia for a social media ban for children under 16.
Australian Leaders Plan to Block Under-16s from Major Social Media Platforms
(Lionel Bovaventure/AFP via Getty Images)
Monica O’Shea

Both Labor and the Liberal-National Party Coalition have backed plans to ban children under 16 from social media in the future.

Opposition Leader Peter Dutton recently unveiled his plan to block teenage children from accessing platforms like Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and X.

Penalties will apply to companies that “do not comply,” with further details will be provided in due course.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese says his government is already progressing in a similar direction, with $6.5 million allocated for a trial of online age verification.

Mr. Dutton reassured parents having tough conversations with their children, that the law would it easier.

“It’s going to be easier if we have a law that says, in the conversation when you’re talking to your kids, that you can’t be on those platforms until you’re 16, that’s the law,” he said on Sunrise.

“You can’t drive a car until you get your licence, that’s the law. You’d love to drive a car beforehand.”

Mr. Dutton said the Coalition wants the same rules and the same laws that apply in real life to apply online.

“These companies need to be pressured, and if we do nothing, the red lines continue to be crossed.”

“So I think we can work with the technology companies, we can work through the tax system or whatever is required to budge these companies into an outcome,” he said.

Libertarian Party Suggests Leaving it to the Parents

Meanwhile, leading Libertarian Senate Candidate for Victoria Jordan Dittloff responded to Mr. Dutton’s plan by saying, “Today Peter Dutton confirmed he supports social media censorship.”
“There is absolutely inappropriate content online, but there are many tools parents can use to limit access for their children,” he said.
“Remember: eSafety was originally children’s safety.”

13 Is Too Young for Social Media, David Coleman

Meanwhile, Shadow Communications Minister David Coleman claimed social media companies have “let Australian families down” by not enforcing age limits.

He stated that the age limit of 13 is too young and raised concerns that social media companies do not enforce it properly.

“There is no scenario where the social media companies will do the right thing, and so we’re going to force them to. It’s the right thing to do, and we hope that the government will get behind this. This shouldn’t be a partisan issue,” he told reporters in Sydney on June 13.
“I think every parent worries about this, and so it doesn’t matter what your political views are, this is something that we should all be able to come together, get behind this, and force the social media companies to do the right thing.”

Albanese Backs Raising Social Media Age, with Government Conducting a ‘Trial’

Similarly, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has backed a media campaign that would increase the social media age from 13 to 16 years old.
On Nova 96.9 Sydney, he said on May 21, “I assure you I am very supportive of the work that is taking place.

Mr. Albanese explained that the federal government has allocated money in the budget to trial age restriction.

“The Internet is difficult. We know that’s the case to provide any restrictions,” Mr. Albanese said.

“We did that in this year’s Budget. Last year’s Budget, we quadrupled funding for the e-Safety Commissioner.”

He also highlighted the negative behaviour online, noting that people say things online they would never say “face to face completely.”

“Part of what this debate will do, I hope, is that it makes people think twice about some of the things that they’re posting as well. Would you say these things to someone face to face? And if you wouldn’t, don’t press send. Don’t engage in that way as well,” he added.

South Australia Looking at Banning Children Under 14

South Australian Premier Peter Malinauskas is also looking into banning children under 14 from having social media accounts.

The Labor government has appointed former Chief Justice of the High Court Robert French AC to examine the legal, regulatory, and technological pathways for the ban.

Further, the South Australian government is looking at requiring parental consent for children between 14 and 15.

Mr. Malinauskas said like most parents, he is concerned about the impact social media is having on children in the community.

“We are seeing mounting evidence from experts of the adverse impact of social media on children, their mental health and development,” Mr. Malinauskas said.

“I am determined to ensure as a government we are doing everything we can to protect our children.”

The New South Wales government also flagged a ban for children under 16 in late May, with Premier Chris Minns suggesting 16 is the right age limit.
Queensland Premier Steven Miles has also indicated support for social media access to be increased to 14 with tighter regulation for those under 16.
Monica O’Shea is a reporter based in Australia. She previously worked as a reporter for Motley Fool Australia, Daily Mail Australia, and Fairfax Regional Media.
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