Social media giants need to protect teenagers – says Cork MEP

20 December 2016
By Elaine Murphy

  • Clune calls on social media companies to introduce minimum standards on their platforms to protect teenage users
  • 25% of Irish 14-17 year old school children say they have sent nude pictures of themselves online *

Fine Gael Ireland South MEP, Deirdre Clune, has welcomed moves by Facebook to create a ‘parent’s portal’ in a move to increase children’s safety on their platforms. Clune is calling on other social media sites to do the same, following warnings from Gardaí in Kerry that “Sexting’ is becoming a major problem among teenagers.

Deirdre Clune MEP

Clune has advocated the use of technological solutions to stop children from sending explicit messages on social media and also engaging in online bullying. She has also called on social media platforms to develop concrete policies to ensure they are protecting teenagers using their sites. In a written Parliamentary Question to the European Commission last week, Clune asked that a timeline be put in place for the introduction of minimum standards across the board on social media when it comes to protecting teenage users.

“Social media companies are quick to use personal data and our online behaviour for advertising – but slow to spend money on developing technologies and policies that protect those vulnerable users between 13 and 18, who may not appreciate the gravity of what they are doing.

“Anyone over 13 can use social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat. Those companies have a duty of care to minors to prevent them from the perils and dangers of life online. The companies have incredible software tools to target advertising at users in order to make huge profits. It’s about time they used those same tools to identify inappropriate content and pictures from younger users. They have the power. When are they going to use it?”

Clune also asked parents to be aware of their own behaviour online and how this will impact on their children.

“Parents need to be honest with themselves. It’s hard to persuade teenagers not to put personal information online, when their parents have been doing it on their behalf since they were born, and without their permission. A recent Nominet study in Britain showed 54% of parents posted an average of 1500 photos of their children on their own social media platforms by the child’s fifth birthday. The study also found that 85% of parents there last reviewed their social media privacy settings over a year ago and only 10% of parents professed to be confident in managing privacy setting on social media platforms.

“In order to best protect children online, I am calling on social media platforms to introduce minimum child protection standards across the board, and to put a timeframe in place now for the implementation of these protections.”

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