NSW summit on social media harm on kids

Ashley Regan
By Ashley Regan | 21 May 2024
Patrick Fore via Unsplash

The NSW Government will host a social media summit in October to address the increasing harm online platforms are having on children and young people.

The summit will bring together senior officials, policy makers, academics and representatives from social media platforms to develop a response about the mental health impacts of social media.

Most government's are united in lifting the minimum age on social media. South Australia is examining how to ban social media for children under 14, Premier of Queensland has suggested 14 years old should be the minimum and NSW Premier Chris Minns said he will be driving for the minimum to be at least 16 years old.

“I know the biggest issue facing parents is kids access and exposure to devices and social media – it's certainly a conversation happening in my own household," Minns said.

“I’m convinced we need more conversations and solutions for parents, schools and communities about how to manage this. This summit will bring together experts and parents alike to talk about what more we can do to protect the wellbeing of our children.”

Australia’s Prime Minister Anthony Albanese also supports the move, the government committed $6.5 million in the federal budget to pilot “age assurance technologies” that will test the effectiveness of stricter age limits on social media.

“Parents are worried sick about what their kids have access to online, it is a major social issue in this country,” Albanese said to reporters on Sunday.

A study found that adolescents who spent more than 3 hours per day on social media faced double the risk of experiencing poor mental health outcomes, including symptoms of depression and anxiety.

Young people also have significant safety concerns in the online environment relating to contact from unknown people, privacy issues, cyberbullying, and security:

  • 31% of 16 to 19-year-old Australians report being victims of image-based sexual abuse
  • Around 66% of young Australians expect to encounter privacy or security issues
  • 85% think it’s likely they will have negative interactions with strangers.

The summit will provide an opportunity for the NSW Government to hear from a wide range of experts and importantly, from young people to understand what can be done to support safety and wellbeing.

NSW community members will be invited to add their voice to the conversation on social media through the Have Your Say platform in the lead up to the summit.

The NSW Government will collectively use the findings to inform any regulatory and legislative changes.

The summit is one of many measures the NSW Government is putting in place to minimise the negative impacts of social media and devices on young people including:

  • A mobile phone ban in all NSW public schools implemented in October 2023
  • A $2.5 million research fund to investigate the impacts of excessive screen time, video games and mobile phone use on young people and their learning
  • Recruiting 250 additional school counsellors as part of the NSW Labor Government's election commitment to student wellbeing
  • A review into evidenced-based practice and school policy which can address school student’s online behaviour, led by NSW Chief Behaviour Advisor Professor Donna Cross.

Minister for Youth Rose Jackson said it's critical that young people are part of shaping the social media conversation in NSW – from what they love about it, to what isn’t working.

“We know young people are prolific on social media – these channels are important to platform ideas and build communities. In turn, issues such as body image, increased anxiety and bullying are common themes young people are exposed to," Jackson said.

“There is substantial evidence that social media harms young people's mental health and safety. It is our job to step up to help protect young people.

"We will collaborate with the next generation to help strike a better balance and to ensure the views of young people are included in these important reforms.”

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