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ITNTW: Is age gating social media enough to stop the Tate problem?

From AI-generated nude photos of schoolgirls in Victoria to a stabbing at the University of Sydney, recent months have seen a disturbing rise in violence and assaults committed by teenagers in Australia. This growing issue has gained national attention, raising the critical question: What drives teens to engage in such actions? Additionally, what role do social media influencers play in this alarming trend?

Parents increasingly find themselves struggling against social media platforms that continually expose children to harmful content, impacting their mental and physical health. In May, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese endorsed a campaign to restrict social media registration for children until they are 16 to protect their mental health. 

Professionals claim that overuse of social media and unsupervised exposure to content have been linked to mental health issues, cyberbullying, anxiety, depression, self-harm, and even suicide among Australian teenagers. The petition for the campaign, 16, has reached 111,326 signatures, highlighting widespread concern. 

However, does the influence stop there?

One significant driver of these issues is the influence of extremist social media figures whose content often revolves around toxic masculinity and misogyny. A notable example is Andrew Tate, the controversial kickboxer who has garnered millions of views with his online content. Despite being de-platformed by many social media platforms and facing prosecution, Tate remains a symbol of success for many teenage boys.

Currently, the age limit for social media use in Australia is 13, an age at which judgment may not be sufficiently developed to navigate the complex world of social media and its influencers. While Tate is a prominent but deplatformed figure, numerous micro-influencers perpetuate similar harmful messages within their smaller, yet impactful, circles.

In 2023, the government introduced the Healthy Masculinities Project, set to launch in 2024 as a three-year trial with A$3.5 million in funding. This initiative aims to combat the damaging effects of social media messaging targeting young men and boys, focusing on eradicating online gender stereotypes. Additionally, the Australian government announced a A$6.5 million commitment to trial an age-verification program to restrict children’s exposure to inappropriate online content, including pornography and potentially harmful social media content.

But how can we safeguard children before these major investments bear results?

Educators play a key role in integrating media literacy into the curriculum from an early age. This will educate children to equip them with the skills to recognise the rights and wrongs of social media. Social media platforms must also take responsibility by implementing strict safety measures, including content filters, reporting tabs and educational resources for both parents and children. 

Ultimately, teaching children to be responsible on social media includes a combination of open communication, education and platform accountability. Only then can we ensure that children have the resources and knowledge to make informed decisions and stay safe online.

Written by Hamed Ebrahimi – PR Consultant at InsideOut PR and #AsSeenOn

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