Erskine – ‘social media can’t be the wild west”

The DUP’s Fermanagh & South Tyrone MLA Deborah Erskine has said The Growing Up Online report highlights the need for action to keep young people safe online.

By Deborah Erskine MLA

Fermanagh & South Tyrone

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Mrs Erskine is the Party’s spokesperson on engagement with young people and she said,

“The internet and social media aren’t on the fringes of young people’s lives, they central to them. Amongst the dangers that are posed through the internet, we should not ignore the massive benefits this level of interconnectedness brings. However, the safety issues highlighted in reports such as the Growing Up Online report cannot be ignored. Some of the ideas come down to common sense and parental control such as ensuring young people are not missing out on sleep because they are scrolling on social media. Others highlight the need for legislation to catch-up with the development of technology and for social media companies to take more responsibility for what appears on their platform.

No-one should have to receive unwanted inappropriate images, or be pressurised to send them, but this is increasingly the normality particularly for young girls. This latest research backs up previous studies from 2020 which found 75% of young girls had been sent unsolicited nude images. The Online Safety Bill has promised to introduce a new image of “cyberflashing” but the sort of harmful content young people are exposed to includes the promotion of suicide and eating disorders.

Governments have a responsibility to ensure social media is properly regulated rather than being the wild west for users. The ultimate mechanism to make publishers responsible is ensuring that platform users have verified identities rather than being bots in a social media hate factory.

We should never accept that young people being exposed to harmful and inappropriate content is somehow “normal” just because it is online. This research is invaluable in highlighting the online world that young people are growing up in, but there must be continued action to keep them safe.”

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