UK Health Secretary threatens new laws as he blasts social media for failing to protect children


Jeremy Hunt threatens new laws as he blasts social media for FAILING to protect CHILDREN

JEREMY HUNT has accused internet giants of turning a blind eye to children being harmed by social media and has threatened new laws to protect young people from online dangers.

Mr Hunt said the Government would set its own limits on healthy screen time

By CAMILLA TOMINEY AND NICK LESTER PUBLISHED: 00:01, Sun, Apr 22, 2018

The Health Secretary hit out at the lack of action taken by companies including Apple, Facebook and Google to protect youngsters’ mental health, dubbing it morally wrong and deeply unfair on parents.

He accused them of failing to police underage users and has written to them demanding a response by the end of the month.

Mr Hunt said the Government would set its own limits on healthy screen time as part of a review on the impact of social media on children’s mental health.

Voicing his “disappointment” at the lack of headway since discussions were held in November, Mr Hunt said: “I fear that you are collectively turning a blind eye to a whole generation of children being exposed to the harmful emotional side effects of social media prematurely."

It is clear to me that the voluntary joint approach has not delivered the safeguards we need to protect our children’s mental health
Jeremy Hunt

“This is both morally wrong and deeply unfair on parents, who are faced with the invidious choice of allowing children to use platforms they are too young to access or excluding them from social interaction that often the majority of their peers are engaging in.

“It is unacceptable and irresponsible for you to put parents in this position.”

Although he welcomed products like Google’s Family Link which help parents control what their children can access online, Mr Hunt said some websites had been too focused on complaining about the challenges they faced “rather than offering innovative solutions”.

He added: “It is clear to me that the voluntary joint approach has not delivered the safeguards we need to protect our children’s mental health.”

Refusing to rule out legislation, he warned he would pursue the reforms needed under its Internet Safety Strategy in the absence of any meaningful contribution from the internet giants.

He said: “I would like to know what additional new steps you have taken to protect children and young people since November in each of the specific categories we raised – age verification, screen time limits and cyber-bullying.”

Mr Hunt is a family man with three children: Jack, eight, Anna, six and Eleanor, three.

A source close to Mr Hunt said he was keen to provide parents with evidence-backed advice on screen time limits “in the same way families are recommended to eat five fruit and vegetables a day”.

The source added: “At the moment parents feel completely in the dark about what constitutes healthy internet use for their children and that has got to change, with or without the help of the companies.”

Mr Hunt has asked the Chief Medical Officer to undertake a review of the impact of technology on children.

His letter to Apple, Microsoft, Facebook, Instagram, Google, YouTube, Snapchat and Twitter comes after Children’s Commissioner Anne Longfield warned young people faced “significant emotional risk”.

She found secondary school pupils were particularly susceptible to becoming addicted to “likes” as a form of social validation. Between them Google and Facebook are involved in dozens of social media companies, including WhatsApp and Instagram. Google’s parent company Alphabet owns video platform YouTube.

Common mental health disorders
Fri, June 23, 2017
Common mental health disorders from anxiety and depression to post-traumatic stress disorder and phobias.
     
·        Anxiety - A feeling of uncontrollable unease such as a worry or a fear
·        Obsessive Compulsive Disease (OCD) - This illness causes suffers to have unwanted thoughts and compulsions
·        Phobias - A specific phobia of a an object or situation that is out of proportion to the actual danger
·        Depression - Persistently feeling sad, unhappy or helpless for weeks or months
·        Social Anxiety Disorder (Social Phobia) - One of the most common anxiety disorders is a fear of social situations
·        Body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) - Causes a person to have a distorted view of how they look
·        Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) - This anxiety disorder is caused by stressful, frightening or distressing events such as a road accident or robbery

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