Sarah Dines column: ​We must tighten regulations to help protect our children online

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​All sensible people would agree that children should not have access to drugs, they should not be able to buy alcohol, cigarettes or drive a car, and yet as a society we seem to have turned a blind eye to our children having access to what I believe is an incredibly dangerous online world, writes Derbyshire Dales MP Sarah Dines.

​My colleague Miriam Cates MP has been in the press recently as she has been working exceptionally hard to bring this important topic to the forefront of debate.

I believe, without doubt, that the unregulated use of smartphones and the access to social media platforms for our children has directly resulted in the increase in suicide, self-harm, depression, anxiety, eating disorders and bullying in our young children.

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There has been a proven, direct correlation between the increase in smartphone use in children and an increase in these issues. In addition to this the risk of online grooming and sexual abuse is also increased.

Sarah Dines, Conservative MP for Derbyshire Dales.Sarah Dines, Conservative MP for Derbyshire Dales.
Sarah Dines, Conservative MP for Derbyshire Dales.

In some cases, development in very young children is actually being held back as they are glued to a screen, rather than experiencing the world in the way humans are meant to.

It is very easy to look at the lives of others online and think they are more successful or happier than our own, because of the life they portray online.

In reality, they are only showing the highlight reel of their life, the best bits and none of the complications and difficulties we all experience. As adults we can probably realise this nuance. I am not so sure about our young people and I do worry about the pressure this can place them.

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I would like to see the age limit for social media apps raised to 16 and I would like to see age verification systems put in place on these applications that actually work.

​”I welcome the Education Secretary’s announcement that mobile phones should be banished from schools and the accompanying guidance as to how this might be achieved”, says Sarah Dines, Conservative MP for Derbyshire Dales.​”I welcome the Education Secretary’s announcement that mobile phones should be banished from schools and the accompanying guidance as to how this might be achieved”, says Sarah Dines, Conservative MP for Derbyshire Dales.
​”I welcome the Education Secretary’s announcement that mobile phones should be banished from schools and the accompanying guidance as to how this might be achieved”, says Sarah Dines, Conservative MP for Derbyshire Dales.

When I was in the Home Office as a Minister for Safeguarding, I saw first-hand how social media can negatively impact the lives of vulnerable people and it is absolutely right that more should be done.

I welcome the Education Secretary’s announcement that mobile phones should be banished from schools and the accompanying guidance as to how this might be achieved.

I am sure we will see more coming out on this topic but I am urging the Government to act now for the sake of our young people.