The Commissioner for Children refused to give a straight answer when asked whether children younger than 13 should be allowed allowed to have social media accounts.
“Practically all children have access to technology and this is a good thing as it has many benefits,” Pauline Miceli told Lovin Malta. “However, like everything else there are certain risks that children may be exposed to online. Many of the young children we meet are already making use of social media even though, according to the terms and conditions, children should be 13 and over to use most social media platforms. This is very often done without the consent of the parents.”
Miceli also called on parents to teach their children to use the internet safely so as to “build resilience” in order to recognise online risks and to balance their time spent online with time engaged in offline activities.
Lovin Malta sought a reaction from Miceli a month ago after Kristina Chetcuti, the partner of former PN leader Simon Busuttil, penned an opinion piece which called out Prime Minister Joseph Muscat for allowing his 11 year-old daughters to have Instagram accounts when the social media giant requires users to be at least 13.
The opinion piece proved controversial due to Chetcuti’s statement that Muscat and his wife should be raising their twin children to form a thick skin against school bullies rather than complain about it in public. As several people, including high-ranking government officials, accused Chetcuti of justifying or playing down incidents of bullying, Miceli issued a veil rebuke against the columnist.
“The Office of the Commissioner for Children firmly believes that bullying and harassment is never justified,” she said back then. “It is the role of parents/guardians, educators and educational institutions and all other significant adults to ensure that all children, including children of politicians, are protected from all forms of bullying, harassment and/or discrimination. It is only through responsible adult example the children learn to respect their peers even when they do not agree with them.”