National Social Media Ban for Underage Kids Is ‘Ideal,’ Says Child Psychologist

While a social media ban would be the best for children’s wellbeing, questions have arisen over how it will be implemented in practice.
National Social Media Ban for Underage Kids Is ‘Ideal,’ Says Child Psychologist
Social media is highly detrimental to child and adolescent wellbeing, says child psychologist Rachael Sharman. (Fiordaliso/Moment/Getty Images)
Rebecca Zhu

One expert says all Australian states should have a ban on social media access for children.

The comments come as South Australia and New South Wales’ state leaders begin exploring restricting social media access to those below a certain age limit.

Rachael Sharman, child psychologist and researcher from the University of Sunshine Coast, said a nationally consistent minimum age limit was ideal.

“Social media use is showing up time and time again as being highly detrimental to child and adolescent psychosocial wellbeing, and not just in terms of addiction,” she told The Epoch Times via email.

“There are a raft of other downstream consequences that are disrupting normal developmental processes in the brain.”

It comes after South Australian Premier Peter Malinauskas revealed he was exploring the legal feasibility of a potential ban for children under 14.

Under the proposal, children aged 14 and 15 would also require parental consent for access to a social media account.

The premier said it was in response to community concerns about the impact of social media on children’s mental health.

“I am determined to ensure as a government we are doing everything we can to protect our children,” he said on May 12.

New South Wales (NSW) also followed up with its own announcement on May 20, with Premier Chris Minns saying he believed children should be at least 16 to use social media.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has backed the move, saying many Australians were concerned about the easy access children had to inappropriate content.

“Every parent is concerned about the impact of social media ... And I think that it’s time that we take strong action. But we want to make sure that that strong action is effective,” he told reporters.
The federal government has already announced an inquiry into the impact of social media on Australian society, including the examination of age assurances.

Is a Ban Enforceable?

Questions have arisen over how authorities would enforce a minimum age limit for social media.

Having compulsory age verification measures could affect every person accessing social media platforms, including adults.

Rob Nicholls, a policy specialist and senior research associate at the University of Sydney, said implementation would be difficult.

“At its heart, the issue with age verification is that either a minor needs to verify their own age or an adult needs to verify the age of a minor,” he told The Epoch Times via email.

One method would be through uploading a photo or video of the child’s ID. However, this approach raises privacy concerns.

“This [method] is entirely contrary to the eSafety commissioner’s messaging on online safety. The commissioner advises parents to make sure children do not share images or videos of themselves and to never share their ID,” Mr. Nicholls said.

He said the most effective practice could be supervised screentime or limiting device access by parents.

Yet Mr. Nicholls said there were still issues with this approach, with children able to borrow friend’s devices at school.

“As the International Association of Privacy Professionals has found, age verification and data protection are far harder than they look,” he highlighted.