Children under 11 will be BANNED from having smartphones and under-15s prevented from using social media under tough rules backed by Emmanuel Macron

Emmanuel Macron will support a proposed ban on the use of smartphones for under 11s and social media for under 15s across France, it emerged last night.

The French President is backing the proposals made in a report earlier this year by a panel of experts commissioned by the Elysee Palace amid growing concern over the negative effects of tech and social media use on children and teenagers. 

Macron entered the issue into his presidential agenda at the beginning of the year amid sagging approval ratings. 

But there is no word on how such a blanket ban would be implemented, with lawmakers now set to decide which apps will qualify for the ban and to hash out the finer details of bringing the recommended measures to bear.  

President of France Emmanuel Macron is seen during a news conference on June 12, 2024 in Paris, France

Macron will support a proposed ban on the use of smartphones for under 11s and social media for under 15s across France, it emerged last night

Macron will support a proposed ban on the use of smartphones for under 11s and social media for under 15s across France, it emerged last night

The expert panel, which was led by neurologist Servane Mouton and psychiatry professor Amine Benyamina, and also included education, law and tech experts, delivered its findings to Macron in April.

It recommended that all children under the age of 11 must not be permitted to use a smartphone, and must not be given a smartphone with access to the internet before age 13.

Social media apps should be forbidden for anyone under 15, they added, and minors over 15 should only have access to platforms deemed ‘ethical’ – though the report did not specify which platforms would be excluded from such restrictions. 

There is currently no timeline for new legislation and it is unclear to what extent it would follow the experts’ recommendations.

The group said any future moves should focus on tightening rules for tech companies.

‘Those are the ones who are primarily responsible,’ Mouton told a news briefing back in April. 

The way in which such a ban would be implemented remains unclear, with commentators divided on whether appmakers and tech companies would be compelled to build in age restrictions into their applications, or whether parents would bear responsibility for enforcing the ban at home. 

Some tools for limiting screentime and runtime on social media applications are already built into most smartphones, but these limits can be changed by the user at any time.

This has sparked questions over whether the French government will seek to introduce legislation obligating tech companies to enable some kind of age verification tool. 

Olivier Ertzscheid, a lecturer in information and communication sciences, told AFP in January that the key questions centre around the legal basis and social acceptability of such an obligation.

‘This type of measure would be unprecedented in a democratic European country,’ he added.

But there is a battery of evidence to suggest that young people’s mental health is adversely impacted by social media use. 

Macron entered the issue into his presidential agenda at the beginning of the year amid sagging approval ratings in a bid to respond to growing international disquiet that new technologies may be causing more harm than good on young minds

Macron entered the issue into his presidential agenda at the beginning of the year amid sagging approval ratings in a bid to respond to growing international disquiet that new technologies may be causing more harm than good on young minds

There is a battery of evidence to suggest that young people's mental health is adversely impacted by social media use

There is a battery of evidence to suggest that young people’s mental health is adversely impacted by social media use

Internet addiction rewires teenagers' brains and may make them more likely to engage in other addictive behaviour, new research suggests (file photo)

Internet addiction rewires teenagers’ brains and may make them more likely to engage in other addictive behaviour, new research suggests (file photo)

A UCL study published earlier this month found that the addictive nature of social media platforms rewires teenagers’ brains and may make them more likely to engage in other addictive behaviour.

The findings, published in the journal PLOS Mental Health, indicate that internet addiction is associated with disrupted signalling in the regions of the brain involved in multiple neural networks.

Their study, which reviewed 12 separate neuroimaging studies of adolescents displaying heavy internet use, found that when internet addicted tees engaged in activities governed by the brain’s executive control network – such as behaviour requiring attention, planning, decision-making, and especially impulsivity – those brain regions showed a ‘significant’ disruption in their ability to work together.

Study co-author Max Chang said: ‘These networks play an important role in controlling our attention, in association with intellectual ability, working memory, physical coordination, and emotional processing.

‘All of which in turn have an impact on mental health.

‘Given that adolescent brains are more capable of changing than those of adults, understanding the effects of internet addiction on the brain and behaviour is vital for society as a whole.’

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