Children’s Commissioner calls on social media companies to show ‘moral purpose’
While she said adult cam sites have answered the call and would be happy to have such restrictions, she said she was much more “disappointed” with the response. major tech giants, including Google, Facebook and Instagram.
“I think they have to show a moral purpose and take protection more seriously,” she said.
“Adult businesses were much simpler; they don’t want kids on their sites, they just want the changes to be mandatory.
She told the Telegraph that she was concerned the repeated blockages may have increased children’s exposure to online damage, likening the situation to leaving a “noxious weapon” where children might find it.
“We shouldn’t let our eight-year-olds stumble upon violent porn, we need to take action,” she said.
The former director also said the pressure to compete with idealized “online lives” also drove young girls to despair.
Dame Rachel said: “I think girls today are under a unique pressure; there’s this pressure to “live your best life”, to look a certain way, to be popular and attractive, and all that is compared to what is seen online.
“I can’t tell you how many times I have sat down with girls in tears because they are not up to what they see online or have been harassed or bullied, and they see all of these sexualized images and stumbling across porn on social media when he shouldn’t even be able to access social media at this age.
Children spend more time online
The children’s commissioner said 18 months of lockdown and social distancing had exacerbated the situation, with children spending more and more time online.
It follows research on more than 550,000 children which found that girls were twice as likely to face mental health problems as boys.
Overall, 25 percent of girls were unhappy with their mental health, compared to 13 percent of boys. By the age of 16, four in ten girls were unhappy, according to the mass survey.
Dame Rachel said: “I would like to introduce mandatory age verification. I’ve had teenagers tell me, you know, eight to 11 year old kids go to a lot of these adult sites – they have a voluntary age check that’s easy to get around, so I would reinforce that and leverage that. would make it mandatory. ”
She said her meeting with tech giants over the past few months had disappointed her with their refusal to take voluntary action in the meantime.
And she said she hoped new Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries would make changes to the online mischief legislation.
“I think she understands the real world and will be concerned about it: I hope she does.”
Access inappropriate content
The commissioner said children were routinely exposed to inappropriate content online, seeing pornography, heavily filtered images, physical violence and content encouraging self-harm, eating disorders and suicide.
It follows warnings of an explosion in mental health disorders since the pandemic and concerns that the generation growing up in the shadow of covid is increasingly scarred by fear and anxiety.
A Facebook spokesperson said, “We use the artificial intelligence and age that people provide during registration to understand whether people are telling the truth about their age when using our platforms.
“On Instagram alone, these processes helped us remove over six hundred thousand underage users between June and August of this year.
“We will continue to invest in new tools and work closely with our industry partners to make our systems as efficient as possible. ”
Google was also approached for comment. Earlier this year, the company announced the opening of its first center dedicated to tackling harmful online content. The tech giant said the new facility, based at its Dublin headquarters, will focus on child safety and extremism.
Campaign to put children first
Earlier this year, The Telegraph launched a campaign calling on ministers to put children first as the country recovers from repeated lockdowns, with measures to end the disruption of schools and remedy the damage caused.
The campaign was launched in June with Dame Rachel’s plea for the dismantling of the “bubble” system in schools, a step the government subsequently took.
Dame Rachel said much more needs to be done to tackle the growing backlog of children in need of mental health help in the wake of the pandemic.
She called on the NHS to prioritize funding for mental health, including a rapid expansion of support teams for schools.
“The NHS has plans for the Mental Health Support Teams to be fully deployed by 2028, but we need them now: come on, hurry,” she said.
Dame Rachel said more children should benefit from online counseling, with research suggesting many felt more comfortable if therapy was delivered through virtual sessions.
And she said those whose schooling has suffered during repeated blockages should be offered additional tutoring.
Last month, national research found that one in six children between the ages of six and 19 was likely to have a probable mental disorder, up from one in nine in 2017.