In an age of unfettered access to social media and the ubiquitous nature of mobile devices, parents have been asking a lot of questions about what effects all of this screen time may be having on their children. Some research has already suggested that there are more than a handful of negative side effects that can stem from being overstimulated by social media. This has prompted the British government to consider implementing a new policy that would force social media apps and websites to impose a curfew for younger users.
According to the Independent, the particulars of the initiative aren’t set in stone, but they are being hashed out by the information commissioner, Elizabeth Denham, who is trying to talk to parents and kids to find out what exactly they would need from the looming limitations.
As it stands right now, three-quarters of children between 10 and 12 currently have a social media account. The big concern is the way that certain apps are subtly coaxing younger users into being on them all the time. Anne Longfield, the Children’s Commissioner for England, has already suggested banning social media in schools and has come out against things like Snapchat’s streak feature which rewards users for staying on the app and messaging certain people at least twice a day.
While screen-time concerns are often dismissed as hyperbolic, the effects are being researched, and it’s not pretty. There are rising concerns that unregulated access to social media is hypersexualizing kids, making millennials more lonely, and could be making it harder for future generations to just sit down and relax for a second. Still, many of the negative effects are at least somewhat contingent on a lack of parental supervision. It might not be that kids these days have a greater proclivity for certain activities, but rather that no one can really tell you ‘do this’ or ‘do that’ on the internet.
The new rules are likely going into effect by the end of 2019, but may not result in younger users being shut-out entirely after a certain hour. Instead, it could actually be as flexible as forcing companies to simply turn off notifications to younger users after a certain time. The how and what exactly of it all is still up in the air, but one thing is fairly certain: social media companies will either have to comply or deal with the consequences.