Growing up did you ever attempt to attend a movie that you were old enough to see? Or fake your age just to be able to access a variety of social media platforms?
Well these restrictions can be identified as ‘media regulations’. Media regulation is the control or guidance of mass media by governments and other bodies. It not only monitors what certain age groups can and cannot access, it regulates where we can and cannot use media. For example in Australia it is illegal to use your mobile phone when driving, when working and when in the cinema.
While some think that media regulations can be an ‘inconvenience’, the Australian Government is updating media laws to adapt to an ever changing landscape.
“The Government has announced the most significant reforms to Australia’s media laws in a generation, supporting the viability of our local organisations as they face increasing global competition in a rapidly changing digital landscape.”
With advancing technology and the rapid growth of the World Wide Web, we now have instant access to any content from around the world. As a result I think it is necessary for these restrictions to be enforced, particularly online.
“The Internet is becoming a popular source of information and entertainment for children. Increasing numbers of schools are coming on-line and material on the Internet targeted at children is burgeoning. As with television, there is increasing community concern that young people are being exposed to pornographic and other inappropriate material such as aggressive marketing on the Internet.Placing or possessing material on the Internet that infringes existing legislation regulating, for example, racial vilification or defamation may be a criminal offence. These laws are difficult to enforce as the originators of Internet material can rarely be identified.“
The instantaneous nature of the internet is revolutionary, however it is becoming a common action that children are neglecting the age restrictions set by websites. For example when I signed up to Facebook, the minimum age was 16 and I was 14. Now social media services such as Facebook and Instagram now require the user to be at least 13-years old.
What is the problem with this but?
An article from the Daily Mail explains that a study in 2014 found that 59% of children are networking at the age of 10. A poll highlighted that 21% of children have posted negative comments and 43% have messaged strangers on social media. It is these statistics that should concern individuals, while developing an online presence is a social norm, at such a young age it diminishes the barrier between their public and personal life.
Furthermore Dr Richard Woolfson explains “children are gaining access to social media sites at a younger age, which could expose them to content, people or situations that are out of their depth and which they’re not emotionally prepared for“. It is evident that what younger generations are seeing on social media websites is increasingly influencing their daily lives.
Online presence can be altered to reflect yourself or to transform into an entire other being. The implications of children being on social media at such a young age is that they can fall into the traps of strangers online. “The capacity for communications to be online, and yet under the radar, is something parents, teachers and policy-makers need to remain aware of“.
In 2014 an incident regarding online stranger danger occurred, where a 12-year-old girl had met and invited an unknown man to her house through online interaction. The platform that was used was the popular messaging app Kik, where the minimum sign up age is 17. A casual conversation had begun between the young girl and old man, he who had been pretending to be younger than his actual age of 32 and eventually led the man to her front-door. Investigators found that this was not the only platform the two were using and he was not the only man she was communicating with, Xbox live had been a popular communication platform for the young girl. Later that year in November Microsoft supplied a 30 day transcript of the girls conversations with strangers.
The offender was immediately jailed and charged, this incident has acted as a cautionary tale in Baltimore to warn children of the implications of their online behaviour.
Media regulation is vital in keeping all media users safe. Age restriction is important to limit young children, it is common that young children who are unaware of online stranger danger, cyberbullying and how permanent their actions are.