My generation was that of Meta’s guinea pigs!

My generation was that of Meta’s guinea pigs!
My generation was that of Meta’s guinea pigs!

I’m 22 years old and, like all young people of my generation, I grew up with social media. During our childhood, our societies embarked on a great experiment in which we were the guinea pigs, while we were unaware of the consequences of these platforms on our development and our mental health. Now that a collective awakening is beginning on this issue, our generation must have its say.

• Read also: The digital majority must be set at 16 years, according to young people from the CAQ

At the CAQ Succession Commission, we have seen directly the effects that social networks have had on ourselves and those around us. We were confronted with a reality that previous generations did not experience, and which they can hardly grasp. Myself, as a teaching student, I see the consequences of social media on primary school students. We cannot stand idly by.

The increasingly early arrival of young people on social media has brought with it dangers that our parents did not have to face at our age, such as the circulation of intimate images of minors without consent in schools. As young people, it is our right to image that is affected: digital platforms should have the obligation to quickly delete images that violate our dignity when we request them, under penalty of sanctions. As much for cyberbullying and harassment as for child pornography, we must act to make the Internet safer for minors. These sad events, when they take place, almost always happen without the parents’ knowledge, and we cannot leave this burden on their shoulders alone. Platforms must assume their responsibilities.

More broadly, the addictive and harmful effects of social media on our socializing, our sleep, our attention and our mental health are well documented by experts. We sleep less well, we see our friends less in person, our attention span declines in class, and some of us develop a real addiction to these platforms often designed to make us addicted. It’s time we start treating social media for what it is: addictive products, just like alcohol, cannabis and gambling. Thus, we believe that it has become necessary to set the minimum age at 16 years for opening an account on social networks, and to apply it rigorously, in particular using technologies already used by web giants. Like buying beer or a lottery ticket, it should be normal to verify the age of users, for their own safety.

We are aware that these bold proposals will be debated. However, we cannot let Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok and Google continue to put the physical and mental health of young people at risk without supervision. Quebec has always been at the forefront in youth protection, and once again, we can be pioneers. My generation, who grew up with these platforms, now has a central role to play in regulating them and making them safer.

– Aurélie Diep, president of the CAQ Succession Commission

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