Feedback | Thursday, June 13, 2024

Spain tightens protections for children on smartphones

Spain announced measures on Tuesday to ensure parental controls on smartphones by default as part of new steps to protect children from the harmful effects of social media.

The government will also criminalise the creation of “deepfake” AI-generated images involving sexual content and the sharing of pornographic material with children, Justice Minister Feliz Bolanos told reporters after a cabinet meeting.

The age of data protection consent would be raised from 14 to 16 and a digital restraining order – banning certain people from contacting others online – to be introduced, he said.

“We want to give families the peace of mind that when their children are in a digital environment, they can be sure that the government of Spain cares for them,” he said.

The bill has to be approved by parliament to become law.

The European Union’s sweeping Digital Services Act (DSA)brought in last year includes some specific protections for children but countries are also generating their own legislation to respond to public concerns.

France made a parental control available by default on all internet-connected devices in September 2022. In Britain, an Online Safety Act that came into force in October last year requires platforms such as Meta’s Facebook or Instagram and Alphabet’s YouTube to remove illegal content and be effective in checking their users are at least 13 years old.

The potential risks for children of using social media are still being investigated and debated.

In May 2023, the U.S. Surgeon General said that while social media offered some benefits, there were “ample indicators” it could also harm the mental health of children.

Social media use may cause and perpetuate body image issues, affect eating behaviours and sleep quality, and lead to social comparison and low self-esteem, especially among adolescent girls, he warned in an advisory.

The Spanish government also intends to roll out a national education campaign for children and teenagers to help them navigate social media and training for teachers and healthcare staff in identifying those struggling with it, Bolanos said.


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Last Updated: 13th Jun 2024