Nanny state: Australian politicians united on new social media age limits

Both sides of parliament call for stricter action to 'safeguard' kids online, sparking debate over online privacy and parental rights.

Nanny state: Australian politicians united on new social media age limits
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Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has called for "strong actionto safeguard young Australians from the dangers of social media, endorsing the implementation of an age limit with "effectiveenforcement measures.

Albanese highlighted the federal government’s intention to “respond positively” to the concerns of Australian parents, citing the “devastating” impact of social media on the mental health of children and teenagers.

With the premiers of Australia’s three largest states backing stricter regulations on underage social media access, the Commonwealth is now exploring what a feasible age restriction would entail.

Albanese noted that alongside a $6.5 million age verification trial, the Labor government has significantly increased funding for the nation's contentious eSafety Commissioner and initiated a joint inquiry into social media companies to ensure the effectiveness of age restrictions.

“We want to ensure that any measures implemented are effective, as there are concerns that current age protocols can be easily bypassed by users, he stated.

The Prime Minister expressed his understanding of parental worries, commending the Let Them Be Kids campaign launched recently. “This is a prime example of the media contributing positively to an issue of great concern to parents,” he remarked.

Currently, platforms like TikTok, Facebook, Instagram, and X set a minimum user age of 13, but there is no legal enforcement, leading to numerous underage users.

Opposition leader Peter Dutton and communications spokesman David Coleman voiced the Coalition's support for age verification, alleging a link between social media and declining mental health among Australian children, particularly girls.

However, the push for age limits is not without controversy. Critics argue that age restrictions could be difficult to enforce and may infringe on privacy rights. Some experts suggest that education and parental involvement are more effective solutions.

Queensland Premier Steven Miles advocated for raising the social media age limit to 14 and enforcing stricter regulations for users under 16. “The Australian Government must ensure social media companies act responsibly,” he insisted.

Victorian Premier Jacinta Allan argued for higher age restrictions or unique Australian regulations.

Our duty is to protect our children and prepare them for the future, she said.

NSW Premier Chris Minns announced a special summit in October aimed at addressing the mental health impacts of social media.

“This summit aims to find practical solutions so young people can benefit from technology while leading fulfilling lives outside their screens, he explained.

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