Momentum is building across Australia to block children under 14 from social media amid concerns about the negative impacts on young people’s mental health and development.

But an Indigenous digital platforms expert belives a ban would disportionately impact Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander youth.

Professor Bronwyn Carlson, head of the Department of Indigenous Studies at Macquarie University, says it’s the wrong approach in reducing young people’s exposure to inappropriate and harmful content.

Professor Carlson says governments need to shift its focus away from regulating young people.

The South Australian Government has appointed former Chief Justice of the High Court, Robert French AC, to consider legal, regulatory and technological approaches and a constitutional framework to impose such a ban.

Premier Peter Malinauskas says he’s concerned about the effect online platforms are having on young people.

“Like most parents, I am concerned about the impact social media is having on children in our community.

We are seeing mounting evidence from experts of the adverse impact of social media on children, their mental health and development.

I am determined to ensure as a government we are doing everything we can to protect our children.”

Prime Minister, Anthony Albanese, has backed the South Australian Goverment’s move, while New South Wales Premier, Chris Minns has called for a State Summit on raising the age limit of social media use.

SA Premier Peter Malinauskas says social media is impacting the mental health of young people. (AAP Image/Lukas Coch)

But Professor Carlson says governments need to target harmful content creators and the platforms. She says an online ban could risk Indigenous kids withdrawing.

“Our kids are pretty innovative.

You’ve only got to look across, Instagram, or TikTok and see, Indigenous kids that are highly political, they’re activated and engaged.

But then there’s the other side, where we’re highly targeted in online spaces, where we see high rates of harm and violence and racism, and misogyny all taking place.

So if we want to really think about the harms, let’s look at how they’re perpetrated, the platforms need to be held responsible.

And the biggest perpetrators of online crime is not Indigenous kids, and it’s not probably kids, it’s likely to be adults.”

As it stands, Professor Carlson says social media platforms are generating more toxicity then it’s stopping.

“I think some of those platforms actually increase that kind of behavior.”

“I don’t think any of the platforms are really doing enough, particularly the bigger (platforms like) Meta Facebook, Instagram, and now X (Twitter), I don’t think they do enough at all.”

Professor Carlson (pictured above) also says more research into how social media impacts Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders needs to be funded.

“Why aren’t grants being given to Indigenous people to do this research, so we have a better understanding what’s going on in our communities and what people need or want, so that we have a bigger picture.

We’re not at the table for so many things.

When the South Australian Government decides to ban all these kids off social media, how many Indigenous parents were involved in that decision making? Yeah, probably none.”

Listen to the full interview with Professor Bronwyn Carlson here:

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