Reining in Excessive Internet Use for Kids: Countries and the EU Take Action

Reining in Excessive Internet Use for Kids: Countries and the EU Take Action

Parents worldwide face the challenge of managing their children’s internet use. With screens capturing kids’ attention, they often become oblivious to their surroundings. Measures are being taken to regulate the excessive and potentially harmful use of major social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok.

China, for instance, aims to limit screen time to 40 minutes for children under the age of eight. The U.S. state of Utah has implemented a digital curfew and requires parental consent for social media use by minors. France has mandated manufacturers to install a parental control system on devices.

The European Union is also taking significant steps through the Digital Services Act (DSA), which will require major online platforms like TikTok, Facebook, and YouTube to open their systems for scrutiny by the European Commission. These platforms must demonstrate their efforts to protect children from harm. Non-compliance may result in fines of up to six percent of the companies’ global revenue.

There is ongoing debate about the connection between social media use and adolescent mental health. Digital giants profit from capturing users’ attention, using strategies that resemble those of slot machines. This pattern of endless scrolling, combined with sporadic feedback from likes and notifications, can have negative consequences, such as anxiety, depression, body image issues, and poor concentration.

Various surveys in the United States have shown an increase in teenage unhappiness, including suicidal thoughts, depression, and sleeping difficulties. The trend is particularly pronounced among teenage girls. Coinciding with this, smartphone use has surged, with more people accessing social media platforms multiple times a day.

While technology is recognized as a contributing factor, researchers differ on its level of influence. Some studies suggest a correlation between the introduction of Facebook on college campuses and a decline in students’ mental health. Psychiatrists express concerns about the impact of social media on sleep quality and subsequent mood swings and academic performance.

Arguments about the potential harms of social media call for a nuanced approach. It is essential to identify the most vulnerable individuals and prioritize the evaluation of specific platforms and features. Additionally, researchers emphasize the need for more data. The new EU rules will enable researchers to access previously unavailable information.

Overall, balancing the benefits and risks of digital media engagement is crucial to safeguarding children’s well-being and mental health.