Here’s one way Miles can shorten his election odds – and save lives in the process

As Premier Steven Miles struggles for traction in the run-up to October’s state election, one of the biggest opportunities is staring him in the face, writes Madonna King

Mar 27, 2024, updated Mar 28, 2024
Queensland Premier Steven Miles is seen meeting families during an announcement with Orange Sky in Brisbane, Sunday, December 17, 2023. (AAP Image/Darren England)

Queensland Premier Steven Miles is seen meeting families during an announcement with Orange Sky in Brisbane, Sunday, December 17, 2023. (AAP Image/Darren England)

Sometimes the best reform is the hardest.

And that’s why premier Steven Miles should be heard loudly on the call to rein in the big social media proprietors.

And that call for action should be heard in Canberra too, where Prime Minister Anthony Albanese continues to ignore expert advice to take on TikTok and Insta and their corporate online buddies.

It’s not news that social media is hurting our children. The evidence is in the mental health statistics we are seeing amongst our teenagers, the epidemic in sleeplessness in adolescents and in the disease of comparison that is now smothering our young daughters.

It doesn’t stop there. The role of school principals has been turned on its head, the wait time for a psychologist now routinely runs to more than a year, and the rabbit hole our children are climbing down is sending families to breaking point.

The evidence is also in the vicious viral videos of primary schoolers being bullied, the ‘like’ campaigns by juvenile criminals who are stealing cars for social media fame, and the episodes of sextortion and naked selfies and blackmail attempts that are being dealt with by both schools and police, daily.

And that doesn’t include the tsunami of porn being watched by children too young to understand what they are seeing.

I promise you that what appears on the news is a tiny slice of the heartache being triggered by irresponsible social media use, and which flows into my email tray regularly.

This is not on our children. And the wave of blame being sheeted home to parents is not constructive either – because it hides the role of those pulling the strings behind the scenes at TikTok and Instagram and those other platforms engaging our children.

The excuses by government on why they can’t act should be running out. “It’s too hard.’’ “It’s a parent’s job.’’ “We can’t have laws across different borders.’’

Blah. Blah. Blah.

The governor of Florida this week signed a bill that will ban social media accounts for children under the age of 14. Parental consent will be needed for those aged 14 and 15.

And here’s the sting that might prompt action: every incident where that doesn’t happen, and social media companies are found liable, will incur a $50,000 fine.

Of course this will be difficult to implement. How will a child’s age be verified? What will be the response to those refused an account? How does this operate across different states or territories?

If we can transport people by aeroplane and develop a vaccine to prevent cervical cancer, we can find a way to determine a child’s age.

And if our governments can’t do that, then they should bring in experts who can.

The issue here hasn’t been our children. Or parents, whose efforts can then be thwarted by devices owned by the school or friends.

The issue here has been a reluctance by politicians to work together to protect our children.

Everyone says Steven Miles and Labor are done like a dinner come October. And perhaps his call for action is motivated by political survival.

I don’t care, but I suspect it’s also motivated by the fact that he has three children and like every other parent can see the influence of social media, and the utter lack of regard and responsibility by proprietors when it comes to the care of our children.

The role of any state here is limited. But as a nation, led by his Labor friend Anthony Albanese, we could change the trajectory of generations to come.

And that could simply start with age verification laws – which the Albanese Government has shown no interest in, despite repeated calls by experts.

That’s just the beginning, and the risk to our children will only grow.

How might we regulate computer games, when AI becomes a key part of the interaction between players, for example? Or how do we use our crime fighters to shut down overseas call centres now sextorting teen boys at Brisbane schools? Or how could we address the paltry penalties for online sex offenders, who are posting photos of their abuse today, on the dark web.?

How might we stop an eight-year-old viewing porn today?

Steven Miles has started a conversation. And irrespective of the outcome for him in October, what a legacy it would be if he managed to force a change for a generation of children, not yet able to vote.

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