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11 Mar, 2018 16:40

‘Social media companies are failing children’: MP proposes screen time limits for kids

‘Social media companies are failing children’: MP proposes screen time limits for kids

Parents should be obligated to limit the amount of screen time their children spend on social media, according to minister Matt Hancock. He said the negative impact it can have on young people is a “genuine concern.”

The secretary of state for digital, culture, media and sport suggested an age-verification system and a government-imposed screen time limit as possible solutions to tackle the problem. “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," he told The Sunday Times.

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,” he added. Companies that have thrived in the internet revolution like Facebook, Google and Twitter were so focused on developing the technology that they didn’t think about the collateral damage they could cause, Hancock explained.

“The web companies when they started were thinking so much about whether they could develop these technologies they didn’t stop to think about whether they should,” he said. If the tech companies fail to address the threats they pose to British children, Hancock says the government will have no qualms about stepping in.

We are not afraid to legislate because it is our job to make sure the laws are up to date,” he explained. “The social media companies have been failing in their duty of care to children and we are going to require them to take that care.”

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Hancock also says he wants to install a new code of conduct whereby material online would be subject to age ratings much like film classifications. Parents would be able to set their internet filter to over-13s, for example, for platforms such as YouTube.

Hancock’s concerns are shared by Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt who last month said excessive social media use poses as big a health risk to children as smoking or obesity. The government has said it wants the UK to be “the safest place in the world to be online” and plans to introduce several initiatives to meet the goal.