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Consider banning social media and smartphones for under-16s, MP tells Sunak

Conservative MP Miriam Cates said there has been a ‘marked increase’ in poor teenage mental health since 2010.

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Rishi Sunak has faced a call to consider banning social media and smartphones for under-16s.

Conservative MP Miriam Cates (Penistone and Stocksbridge) said there has been a “marked increase” in poor teenage mental health since 2010, and appeared to reference the case of 14-year-old Mia Janin, who is believed to have killed herself.

Responding in the Commons, the Prime Minister said the Online Safety Act, which passed into law last year, includes measures designed to protect children online.

An inquest heard on Tuesday that schoolboys allegedly used a group chat to make fun of 14-year-old Mia prior to her death.

The girl’s father, Mariano Janin, has said he believes she was cyber-bullied by other pupils, and an inquest heard how the girl’s social media content was allegedly used by other pupils to make fun of her.

Speaking during Prime Minister’s Questions, Ms Cates said: “Since 2010, across the English-speaking world, there has been a marked increase in poor teen mental health, teen suicide attempts and children addicted to pornography.

“The United Kingdom has a strong tradition of legislating to protect children from serious threats to their safety and welfare.

“So does (the Prime Minister) agree with me that it’s time to consider banning social media and perhaps even smartphones for under 16s?”

Northern Research Group conference
Miriam Cates suggested that banning social media and smartphones for under-16s should be considered by the Government (Danny Lawson/PA)

The Prime Minister responded: “(Ms Cates) is absolutely right to highlight the impact of what happens online on our children.

“And that’s why our Online Safety Act tackles both criminal activity online and protects children from harmful or inappropriate content such as bullying or the promotion of self-harm and accessing pornography and also exposure to eating disorders.

“Ofcom are now rightly developing and consulting on the guidance and the codes of practices for how those platforms will meet their duties and if they don’t clean up their act then Ofcom will be able to impose fines of up to 10% of global turnover on the social media firms.”

Call Samaritans on 116 123 or visit its website if you have been affected by the issues discussed in this article.

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