UK health secretary Jeremy Hunt has accused social media networks of “turning a blind eye to a generation of young people” by failing to protect them when using their platforms online.
Hunt says he is “disappointed” by the lack of progress made in areas such as age verification, screen time limits and cyber bullying.
He met with the bosses of social networks such as Facebook and Twitter in November, but in a strongly-worded letter he told the companies not enough progress has been made.
“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,” he said.
“This is both morally wrong and deeply unfair on parents, who are faced with the invidious choice of allowing children to use platforms they are too young to access, or excluding them from social interaction that often the majority of their peers are engaging in.
“It is unacceptable and irresponsible for you to put parents in this position.
“This is not a blanket criticism and I am aware that these aren’t easy issues to solve… however, it is clear to me that the voluntary joint approach has not delivered the safeguards we need to protect our children’s mental health.”
The firms have been given just over a week to set out what steps they have taken to cut underage use, prevent cyber bullying and encourage healthy screen time – and what more they intend to do.
Hunt stressed that the Government does not rule out bringing in new legislation to deal with the situation when it considers options in May.
Ministers are looking at ways of restricting how much time children spend on social media