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The Visual Media Association is supporting the News Corp’s ‘Let Them Be Kids’ campaign, which is aiming to restrict social media to children, recognising the harm it does, and instead point them to print.

Social media: Be careful
Social media: Society urged to safeguard children 

VMA says books and printed material are a far better way for children to engage with the world around them, and come with none of the issues of social media. From 2008 to 2022, the period when social media became available, rates of self-harm doubled for girls between the ages of 15 and 19, and tripled for children under 14.

Research for the News Corp campaign has revealed that 70 per cent of teens reported having a negative experience on social media, with one in three teenagers having been exposed to disturbing or traumatic content. Further highlighting the almost inevitable potential for harm on impressionable young minds, some 45 per cent have faced abuse or harassment, 59 per cent have been scammed, and an astonishing one in 10 have been victims of revenge porn.

The VMA has long been advocating for the role of print channels for young cohorts across all areas of Australian society, and agrees with the premise of the ‘Let Them Be Kids’ campaign aligning with the morals and objectives of the VMA.

VMA has long promoted the effectiveness of learning with paper and print, which is why over the next few weeks the VMA will be posting across its various platforms to promote the campaign and share the statistics with members, so they too can share among their customers and clients.

Recent government announcements supporting reviews of the social media age limit increases are also welcomed. VMA argues the understanding from governments and large corporations on the negative impact of social media, and the established and credentialed role of print media, is a genuine shift in the realisation of the future role of print across Australian society.

Kellie Northwood, CEO, of VMA, said, “I have always said print and digital do work together where appropriate, however print and visual media platforms operate with compliance to g-rated advertising codes, credible and reference checked content and other regulations digital media simply doesn’t. The research shows our children are most impacted by this.

“Many of our members enjoy the benefit of our HR/IR services, however their funds are also reinvested into campaigning work we have invested from Value of Paper and Print, Love Paper, Two Sides and Keep Me Posted which compile research such as the ‘Let Them Be Kids’ to advocate and educate governments, brands and society on the role print plays.”

Some of the key findings from the News Corp research align with the research articles published in VoPP Mag, the VMA’s print effectiveness campaign, such as Digital Fatigue & Detoxing and The Media Impact, which both highlight the digital burnout among the younger generations and the environmental impact of these digital devices.

“The relentless proliferation of digital content into our society and especially our most vulnerable peoples, children, requires attention. Print and digital media must carry responsibility for the content and distribution. Print certainly has these through the Distribution Standards Board, journalism integrity and ethical code of conducts and more. Digital channels, particularly social media, have a responsibility also to step up and embrace better leadership than they currently do,” said Northwood.

The ‘Let Them Be Kids’ campaign represents a critical intervention in the lives of Australian children, seeking to mitigate the harmful impacts of social media and reclaim the innocence of childhood. The support from organisations like the VMA and organisations like News Corp amplify the message that switching off and returning to the ‘real’ is a powerful step in the right direction for our future generations and one which the government is paying attention to.

“My children grew up reading books together, talking around the dinner table, being present in a real world. Social media is not providing that, in fact is restricting it. Pick up a book, grab a magazine, flip through a catalogue, talk about what you read, share knowledge and encourage your children to remain present. We support government review across social media wholeheartedly and applaud Newscorp for their efforts in this campaign,” concluded Northwood.

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