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EXPLAINED: How is Norway planning to limit children's social media use?

Richard Orange
Richard Orange - [email protected]
EXPLAINED: How is Norway planning to limit children's social media use?
A girl looks at her phone. Photo by Darya Ezerskaya on Unsplash

A majority of MPs in Norway's parliament are in favour of imposing limits on children's social media use, perhaps using the BankID system to make it near impossible for them to lie about their age. What do we know so far?

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What has the government announced so far? 

The Dagbladet newspaper reported on Thursday that the Ministry of Children and Families, the Ministry of Education, and other ministries were working together on a plan to set limits on children's access to social media, with a focus on how to make such limits enforceable. 

Kjersti Toppe, the country's Minister for Children and Families, told the newspaper that the plans were at an early stage. 

"It is too early to conclude how, but we will take a closer look at how we can set and enforce age limits for logging into social media for children," she told Dagbladet. "We are looking at how we can introduce an age limit, in addition to other measures to better protect children." 

Norway's education minister, Kari Nessa Nordtun, said that research showed that social media was damaging child learning. 

"Research shows a dramatic drop in the time children spend playing together coinciding with the introduction of social media. This also affects learning negatively, the challenges are moving into the classroom and affecting children to a large extent," Nessa Nordtun said.

"We are seeing that children well under the age of 13 spend a disturbingly high number of hours on social media and that the age limits are largely not followed." 

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What is being considered? 

The government is considering imposing an age limit of 16 for social media use, significantly stricter than the age limit of 13 which apply to most social media apps. 

It is also looking into better ways to enforce the age limit, as today many young people simply lie about their age when registering on the apps. 

One possibility being considered is to link social media logins to Norway's BankID digital ID system, which would make it impossible for children under 13 to log in to social media apps such as Snapchat, Instagram and TikTok.

"It is too early to say anything about how this is done, and whether a change in the law is required," Nessa Nordtun said. 

What to the opposition parties say about the move? 

The opposition largely supports the government's plans, with Dag-Inge Ulstein, deputy leader of KrF, saying it was "very good that the government is beginning to understand the damage this is doing to our children". 

Nikolai Astrup, an MP for the Conservative Party, telling the Klassekampen newspaper that the crucial thing was how to enforce the age limit. 

"Exactly which year we end up on is not the most important thing. The decisive thing is that we agree on a reasonable limit and get solutions in place to enforce it," he said. "There must be an end to nine and ten-year-olds having free access to content that has not been made for them." 

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When are the new limits likely to come into force? 

It will take some time.

The government is due to submit a parliamentary report on "safe digital upbringing" in the autumn, which is expected to include recommendations on how to bring in an age limit and other measures to protect children. 

After that any proposed changes to the law will need to be analysed and sent out to consultation before being submitted to the parliament for a vote. 

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