Saturday, May 18, 2024

Polaris of Enlightenment

Saturday, May 18, 2024

Polaris of Enlightenment

Swedish leaders call for inquiry into social media’s impact on youth

Published 19 April 2024
- By Editorial Staff
Liberal Party leader Johan Pehrson said social media giants have a major impact on children's health and school performance.

On the initiative of the Liberals, all parties in the parliamentary education committee have agreed to question the owners of online giants Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Snapchat and Youtube.

– We have decided to call the biggest players. Because our children put far too much of their lives in their hands, says Liberal Party leader Johan Pehrson.

The education committee says it is concerned that social media is damaging children’s mental health – and leading to poorer school results.

“Their products affect concentration, mental health, sleep and exercise. All of these are linked to academic performance. Therefore, the company is invited to a hearing by the education committee”, reads the summons, seen by Bonnier-owned Dagens Nyheter.

– We want them to tell us how they construct their algorithms to make them as addictive as they actually are, Pehrson continues, arguing that the algorithms are designed to make young people spend as much time as possible on social media – instead of doing other things that are much more important.

First of all, we want to hear what they have to say, it’s a hearing, and I don’t have high hopes that they will show all their cards in this first meeting. But I want them to admit that they have hired thousands of engineers and psychologists to develop algorithms to keep their users on their platforms longer.

Too much screen time

He argues that the tech giants’ user data must be disclosed. Liberals also want to see flexible technical solutions so that parents can easily “turn off” their children’s social media use at night.

Although the platforms often have official age limits, such as 13, surveys show that the majority of younger children still use TikTok on a daily basis – many also take their phones to bed with them, leading to a lack of sleep.

There are, of course, many positive things that social media platforms can do. But I very rarely meet parents who think social media should be left on at night, Pehrson continues.

The L-leader also stresses that he has not met a single Swedish politician who thinks it is positive that children “spend so much time on digital platforms” as they do today.

Influencing children’s futures

While he does not want to speculate on the practical outcome of the hearing, he stresses that the tech giants “are obliged to answer the parties’ questions to the best of their ability and as honestly as possible”.

Their activities affect the development and future of our children.

If the companies don’t want to take responsibility, legislation at the Swedish and European level is needed instead, he says.

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