Jeremy Hunt, the health minister of the United Kingdom, warned of imposing new regulations on social media companies unless they introduce more ways to protect the young people who are using their services.
Hunt said that the groups were “turning a blind eye” regarding the effect of social media t the well-being of the children – an allegation that rose as Facebook and other social media platforms experience heightened scrutiny across the globe over their influence and impact.
The UK operation of Google said that it was committed to protecting the children and had launched features that aim to help parents set limits on screen time. Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat and other companies failed to comment immediately regarding the matter.
Hunt did not disclose what type of regulations the government could impose. However, he gave the companies a deadline this April to come up with some ways to take on cyberbullying and control the amount of time the youngsters spend online.
In a letter that was sent to tech companies and reported in the Sunday Times, Hunt stated: “I am concerned that your companies seem content with a situation where thousands of users breach your own terms and conditions on the minimum user age.”
He added: “I fear that you are collectively turning a blind eye to a whole generation of children being exposed to the harmful emotional side effects of social media prematurely.”
In the same newspaper, an article featured that Hunt said that there had been some welcome moves to improve online protection of children. However, he said that the overall response had been “extremely limited” and that voluntary approach may not be enough.
Hunt continued: “An industry that boasts some of the brightest minds and biggest budgets should have been able to rise to the challenge.”
The comments of Hunt came alongside the announcement of a government review regarding the effect that sites such as Twitter, Snapchat, and Facebook have on the mental health of children.
The United Kingdom has argued with internet firm on various fronts during the recent years regarding action against the spread of fake news, extremist material, the payment of taxes, and the use of the companies of the personal information of its users.
Katie O’Donovan, the Public Policy Manager of Google in the UK, said that the company had also started an online safety course for children.
She added: “Along with all parents, we understand the challenge of helping children make the most of the internet in a safe and responsible way.”