West Suffolk MP calls for time-limits on youngsters using social media amid health and wellbeing concerns

Matt Hancock said measures were being evaluated to safeguard youngsters on social media. Picture: SA

Matt Hancock said measures were being evaluated to safeguard youngsters on social media. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN - Credit: Sarah Lucy brown

West Suffolk MP Matt Hancock has said that the government is considering introducing time limits for children using social media.

Katie Lawson, Huddl founder. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Katie Lawson, Huddl founder. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN - Credit: Archant

The secretary of state for digital, culture, media and sport said that posting and reading content online via social media platforms could have a negative affect on youngsters, including health and psychological concerns, and added that ministers were looking at measures to protect them.

He told The Times: “There is a genuine concern about the amount of screen time young people are clocking up and the negative impact it could have on their lives.

“For an adult I wouldn’t want to restrict the amount of time you are on a platform but for different ages it might be right to have different time cut-offs.”

Mr Hancock said that an age-verification system could be implemented, which would require social media users to be aged 13 or above.

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Having a limited amount of time on those platforms, was another measure that was suggested.

Many of the most popular social network platforms already say users should be aged at least 13, but it is understood that ministers are evaluating whether stricter checks could be imposed.

Katie Lawson, who founded the social business Huddl which helps educate parents on areas of concern including online safety and cyber-bullying, pointed to Ofcom figures last year which suggested 29% of youngsters had seen something worrying or nasty online.

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“Matt Hancock’s statement saying ‘more must be done to safeguard youngsters’ is correct,” she said.

“The proposal of an age verification system may work and certainly this along with government putting more pressure on social media companies to try to make the UK ‘the safest place in the world to be online’ is a great aim.

“Most platforms already demand a minimum age of 13 and we, the parents and carers, are currently the only regulators.”

Ms Lawson said the boundaries were often unclear, which is why it had launched Huddl Up events with Suffolk Mind to help educate parents, with the next event on April 12 at Quay Place in Ipswich focusing on social media.

She added that its research showed social media safety was still parents’ biggest concern.

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