Young Victorians Cyber safety

Landmark privacy reforms to better protect kids

25 October 2021

Social media platforms which fail to act in the best interests of young Australians and leave children exposed to harmful content will face heavy fines under new legislation proposed by the Federal Government.

Local MP and deputy Nationals leader Steph Ryan has thrown her support behind draft legislation published today, which if passed, will require social platforms including Facebook to obtain parental consent for users under the age of 16.

Ms Ryan has previously expressed concerns about the role social media has played in cyber bullying and youth suicide. 

She said the landmark privacy legislation was a positive step forward to ensure the mental health of our youngest was better protected in today’s ever-changing digital media landscape. 

“Social media can have a profound impact on the lives of young Victorians,” Ms Ryan said.

“The landmark changes proposed by the Federal Government are about ensuring families are given better protections, with fundamental changes to the way social media giants like Facebook operate in Australia.

“Online platforms subject to the code will need to comply with strict new privacy requirements, including taking all reasonable steps to verify their users’ age and give primary consideration to the best interests of the child when handling personal information.

“The code will also require platforms to obtain parental consent for users under the age of 16.

“If passed, the legislation would also see the introduction of tougher penalties and enforcement powers to enable Australia’s privacy regulator, the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner, to resolve matters more effectively and efficiently.”

Ms Ryan said tighter regulation of online platforms had often been put in the too hard basket. 

“I congratulate the Federal Government for being willing to make this reform,” Ms Ryan said.

“I have previously raised my concerns about the operation of some social media platforms with the Australian Communications and Media Authority. 

“There is no conversation more heartbreaking than one with a parent who has lost their child to suicide. 

“Young people continue to tell us that social media is a significant contributor to worsening mental health.

“We need to ensure that Australia’s privacy laws remain fit for purpose in the digital age, protecting our children and making tech giants more accountable.”

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