Culture secretary considers an online 2 hour time limit for under-18s

Good luck with that! Culture secretary Matt Hancock considers an online time limit for under-18s to two-hours a day

  • Culture secretary says a cap could be placed on internet usage for children
  • Technology firms could be asked to limit access to those aged under 18
  • Mr Hancock said social media companies could face £1billion fines over content

Children could be limited to two hours of social media a day under Government online safety plans.

Culture Secretary Matt Hancock is considering an online cap for under-18s.

The cap could also cover popular online games, such as Fortnite, concerns about which were discussed at cabinet last week.

Sources said yesterday that the length of any limit would be decided following a public consultation this month. But it is likely to be no more than three hours a day, and could be as little as two.

Imposing it would be fraught with difficulty, however, ministers believe technology firms have the ability to limit access.

Under 18’s could be blocked from browsing the web for more than two hours per day over fears the internet is being overused by teenagers

Social media companies could soon be hit with hefty fines over ‘bullying’ content  as the Government attempts to cut down use by children

One alternative would be to simply offer guidance to parents on daily usage. But Mr Hancock appears to favour a tougher line, saying: ‘My instinct is that parental controls don’t work unless they have a strong backstop behind them.’

He said ministers were also looking at ways to enforce the age limits that firms such as Facebook and Twitter claim to use. This could include requiring a parent to verify a child’s age before they may open an account.

Mr Hancock said existing age restrictions had ‘no credibility whatsoever’.

A new code of conduct for social media firms, covering issues such as bullying and online abuse, is also going to be put into law. Firms including Facebook and YouTube will be required to take down offensive material immediately. The proposals will be backed by the threat of fines of up to £1billion.

Mr Hancock said yesterday that ministers were determined to tackle the ‘Wild West’ aspect of the internet, adding: ‘People increasingly live their lives through online platforms, so it’s more important than ever that people are safe and parents have confidence they can keep children from harm.’

His deputy, Margot James, said big tech firms were failing to deal with abusive material online. She added: ‘It shouldn’t be up to the taxpayer to fund the mechanisms by which this content is removed, which is currently the case. It should be up to the platforms. There is sufficient artificial intelligence for them to make a huge impression, and the fact that most of them don’t is highly irresponsible, which is why we intend to bring in legislation to control it.’

Matt Hancock MP wants there to be a two-hour cap on internet usage for children

Mr Hancock also attacked social media firms, revealing that just four in 14 invited companies attended his recent summit on the issue.

He said sites such as have more than one million British users but failed to take part in the conference, adding: ‘The fact that only four companies turned up when I invited the 14 biggest gave me a big impetus to drive this proposal to legislate through.’

He said he prevented his three young children from using social media, and was struck by how many technology bosses do the same.

Children’s charities have joined forces to urge the Government to regulate social media to protect young people from abuse.

The Children’s Charities Coalition of Internet Safety is demanding a mandatory safety code backed by an independent regulator. The coalition said: ‘Self regulation has failed. Safeguarding children online should never be an optional extra.’


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