It’s too late to ban under-16s from social media – they are smarter than we think

While undoubtedly conceived with the best of intentions, plans to curb the social media access of under-16s sadly aren’t going to work.

Under proposals reportedly under consideration, children may be forced to obtain their parents’ permission to set up an account in a bid to “empower” mothers and fathers.

In reality, all that will happen is that teenagers will relentlessly badger their parents for access until they inevitably cave in for an easier life. Or they will circumvent any restrictions using their own superior digital know-how.

The genie is already out of the bottle when it comes to teenagers using social media apps such as Instagram, Snapchat and TikTok as soon as they get into secondary school (some even earlier despite the 13-plus age recommendation).

Children will argue, with some credit, that they will be completely cut off from their friends if they don’t have access to social media, which, like it or loathe it, is their generation’s “landline”.

Moreover, these youngsters are not as stupid as the grown-ups seem to think. They can use VPNs (virtual private networks), create fake accounts, and navigate the dark web better than anyone born before 1980.

So if we push teenagers onto sites that are completely unregulated and more vulnerable to child pornography, violent imagery, grooming, and other online nasties, we may end up compounding the problem.

Surely education, rather than prohibition, is the key.

My 15-year-old daughter gave up TikTok and Instagram after reading about Year 11 students at Cumberland Community School in Plaistow, East London, who gave up social media and were rewarded with GCSE grades that were 50 per cent higher than predicted.

One student, aged 16, who was predicted a Grade 6 in English, kicked her 12-hour-day screen time a day habit and achieved a top Grade 9 on results day.

Social media, like much else in life, is fine in moderation. Of course, parents have a role to play in restricting and monitoring their children’s screen time. But first and foremost, shouldn’t government attention be focused on tech giants who continue to allow harmful content to be published on their platforms with impunity?

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