Brianna Ghey’s mum Esther Ghey is calling for a law to ensure phones are ‘suitable’ for kids and for software to alert parents to harmful content their child could be searching for
Rishi Sunak has declined to back calls from the mother of murdered teenager Brianna Ghey for social media apps to be banned on phones for under-16s.
Esther Ghey is calling for a law to ensure phones are “suitable” for kids and for software to alert parents to potentially harmful content their child could be searching. Her 16-year-old transgender daughter Brianna was killed last year by Scarlett Jenkinson, who has watched videos of torture and murder online, and Eddie Ratcliffe.
The pair, who planned the murder using a messaging app, were jailed for life last week. In a moving interview on BBC’s Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg, Ms Ghey said: “We’d like a law introduced so that there are mobile phones that are only suitable for under-16s.
“So if you’re over 16, you can have an adult phone, but then under the age of 16, you can have a children’s phone, which will not have all of the social media apps that are out there now. Also to have software that is automatically downloaded on the parents’ phone which links to the children’s phone, that can highlight key words.”
Pressed on whether he agreed or whether it was a viable policy, the PM said on Monday that his thoughts were with Brianna’s family after the “unspeakable, unspeakable, awful act”. But Mr Sunak declined to say whether the government might consider the proposal. He said: “As a parent, I am always worried about social media and what my young girls are exposed to.
“That’s why I’m pleased we have passed the Online Safety Act over the last year and that means the regulator now has tough new powers to control what is exposed to children online. And if the big social media companies do not comply with that, the regulator is able to levy very significant fines on them and the priority now is making sure that act is up and running.”
Speaking on Sunday, Education Secretary Gillian Keegan also insisted “child-safe phones” were available. She said that a ban of mobile phones in schools is something her department are consulting on now and are putting the guidance together.
“We know and understand this is really worrying to parents… it is a worry because it’s something that is relatively new and not something that the last generation of parents had to deal with,” she said. Pressed on whether she would do something more radical, such as Ms Ghey’s demands, Ms Keegan maintained banning phones in schools was a “big step”.