A committee of MPs has been looking into the upsides and downsides of social media for kids and teens, and the unsurprising conclusion is that it needs much more oversight.
Parliament's Science and Technology Select Committee wants to establish a legal duty of care between social media companies and the young people who use their products. This would, presumably, include not paying them a pittance to leech all their private data.
Facebook's VP Sir Nick Clegg, which is a clause we really never thought we'd have to write, has promised to do "whatever it takes" to protect children on Facebook. Apart from replacing himself with someone with a tech background, presumably.
Social media companies have been under massive scrutiny lately because of cases like Molly Russell's. The 14-year-old schoolgirl used Instagram to look at suicide-related content, then took her own life.
Here's the committee's conclusion:
Children must, as far as practically possible, be protected from harm when accessing and using social media sites. At present, however, there is a patchwork of regulation and legislation in place, resulting in a “standards lottery” that does little to ensure that children are as safe as possible when they go online, as they are offline.
This principle – to protect children from harm when on social media sites – must be enshrined in legislation as social media companies having a ‘duty of care’ towards its users who are under 18.
Social media companies must also be far more open and transparent regarding how they operate and particularly how they moderate, review and prioritise content.
Eesh. Good luck with that.
The report comes from a survey of 3,000 youngsters and some focus groups, and found that as well as helping them get 'brows on fleek' or whatever the kids say these days, social media use also led to bullying, grooming, inappropriate sexual content and body dysmorphia.
The committee recommends that Ofcom and the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) work together to regulate social media in the UK. Whether there's any money, aptitude or time for that remains to be seen – we're a bit busy bailing water out of our shipwreck of a country right now, sadly.