Social networks such as Facebook and Twitter should do more to stop under-13s using their sites, says Health Secretary as he reveals his 12-year-old daughter isn’t using them yet
- Matt Hancock said companies leave it to parents to police their offspring online
- Facebook, Twitter and Instagram all say users must be 13 to use their websites
- But their checks are so lax that younger children are signing up in their millions
Matt Hancock (undated pic) said his 12-year-old daughter was not yet on social media, but that it ‘infuriates’ him that tech firms made it so easy for children
Web giants including Facebook and Twitter should do more to stop under-13s using their platforms instead of passing the buck to parents, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said last night.
The minister said his 12-year-old daughter was not yet on social media, but that it ‘infuriates’ him that tech firms made it so easy for children – who are still getting ‘comfortable’ with themselves.
Instead of using technology to restrict access, companies leave it up to parents to police their offspring online, Mr Hancock said.
‘Social media companies say their products shouldn’t be used by under-13s and it infuriates me that they make it very easy for under-13s to use them and don’t do anything to stop them, leaving it all down to parents.’
Mr Hancock did not single out any social media giants, but Facebook, Twitter and Instagram all say users must be 13 to use their websites.
But their checks are so lax that younger children are signing up in their millions.
The web giants do not demand any proof of age. Instead they simply ask users to enter their birth date, which can be easily faked.
Asked whether any of his three children were active on social media yet, Mr Hancock said: ‘No. My daughter is the eldest, she’s 12.’
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In the interview with Grazia magazine, Mr Hancock also warned that the ready access to social media had made growing up and parenting much harder.
‘This is one of the hardest times to be growing up,’ he said. ‘It’s a very hard time to be a parent, too, because of the amount of pressures that impact on young people.
‘Everybody goes through a period of becoming comfortable with themselves; that’s part of growing up. It was hard in the old world of simple communications, but in this new world it’s harder.’
Twitter said its services were not directed at children. Facebook, which owns Instagram, declined to comment.
Natalie Portman: I was lucky to avoid Facebook
Natalie Portman has thanked Mark Zuckerberg for launching Facebook after she finished university, claiming the impact on her privacy would have been crippling.
The Oscar-winner studied at Harvard at the same time as the tech billionaire when she was already a star.
Natalie Portman (left, in 2016) studied at Harvard at the same time as Mark Zuckerberg when she was already a star
She spoke of her relief that she had been able to do ‘stupid things’ without pictures being shared online, adding: ‘I think I was really lucky to have been there before social media.’
As Miss Portman, 37, was finishing her psychology degree in 2003, Zuckerberg, 34, was in his first year, and launched Facebook in 2004. She told US show Sunday Today: ‘I was very lucky in missing that by a fraction…Thank you Mark Zuckerberg for being very young.’
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