Sometimes people wonder why I bang on so much about the dangers of social media, like some hapless dinosaur still living in a cave and cooking my dinner over an open fire, and refusing to accept the world has moved on.
Call me a neanderthal, but I’m going to keep on banging on about it, because every day I see and read stories that send a shiver down my spine.
Just today I read kids are buying a drink called Prime Energy online. Prime Energy has been banned from sale because it does not comply with safety standards, and contains twice the permitted caffeine content for a drink. People, including teenagers, are buying it online because it’s easy to do so.
I have also read about what mental health experts are calling TikTok’s ‘dark rabbit holes’. These are not good places to go, especially for impressionable young minds who desperately want to post videos that capture lots of attention.
The latest concern is that adolescents are getting caught up in dangerous self-harming trends that are sweeping social media apps. TikTok is the biggest concern, allowing people to post videos of themselves being injured or showing off wounds they claim were caused by self-harm.
There’s also a craze very popular among girls to post videos of themselves pulling their own hair out. I kid you not.
Another social media trend encourages people to drink laxative teas for weight loss. Another encourages wearing corsets to get the “perfect body shape”.
One expert detailed how social media algorithms would ensure that anyone who typed in or looked at a video of someone self-harming would be bombarded with similar posts. Call me crazy, but this seems very bad to me.
There has been a corresponding rise in recent months in the number of teenagers who are looking for support from health professionals because they’ve been sucked into these self-harming crazes.
I could go on and on. What frightens me most is that if I didn’t read about this stuff, I would have no idea my own children could potentially be exposed to these sorts of dangerous trends.
Governments and authorities are reluctant to take action, because for sure they would be accused of a “Big Brother” approach. And the last thing we want is to be living in a country where our government can control what we can and can’t see.
But a line in the sand has to be drawn. Taking on these social media giants is a fight that will be long and costly, but I for one don’t think we can sit back and allow what is flourishing online these days to continue.
Anne Hollonds is the Australian Children’s Commissioner. She agrees with me, and says our government would do well to follow the lead of the UK Government, where social media platforms are now required to follow strict rules designed to protect young people.
She says Australia is dragging the chain on these issues compared to a number of developed countries, and that we are allowing big tech companies to trample all over us.
So before I head off to give my cave a bit of a spruce up, I ask you this: What are your kids watching on their phones right now?