Govt may mandate parental controls in smartphones to boost online safety

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  • The Australian government intends to put technology giants under the microscope to alleviate parents' concerns over online safety.
  • Prime Minister Scott Morrison, in December 2021, had stated that concern regarding online safety of children have prompted the government to think of some action.
  • In Australia, under new guidelines, all commercially available gadgets, including smartphones, would have parental controls.


COVID-19-induced pandemic witnessed several Australian families getting more and more dependent and closer to the internet. The proximity with online media has made parents worried about their children's safety when they are out there ‘online’.  

The Australian Parliament intends to put big tech under the microscope to alleviate parents' concerns and is all set to examine toxic social media content and the dangers these platforms are posing to Australians.

Last year in December, Prime Minister Scott Morrison had said that an inquiry committee would be launched, led by Robertson MP Lucy Wicks. 

Prime Minister Scott Morrison stated, 

Moreover, the committee recently delivered its findings, demonstrating the urgent need for all smartphones sold in Australia to integrate parental controls under a new online safety drive.

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Parliamentary committee's report

According to the committee's report, individuals who engage in destructive behaviour and conduct are endangering the safety of others online. Many witnesses testified before the committee that the damages suffered by victims of online abuse leave a long trail of trauma.

In addition, the committee developed specific guidelines that tech companies must follow in the future. 

Social media firms would be obliged to modify their default privacy settings for accounts created by minors (below the age of 18).

In Australia, under new guidelines being explored by the federal government, all commercially available gadgets, including smartphones, would be required to include parental controls. Parents would be able to filter, block and monitor some content using these features. 

In a new report, the federal Parliament's social media and online safety committee also looked at whether social media corporations should be required to disclose vital facts about the algorithms they use to feed users' content.

Moreover, the report stated that social media firms should do more to safeguard young people's online privacy and enforcing default high-level privacy settings would be a fundamental step.

Committee chair Lucy Wicks commented,

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Bottom line

The committee held 11 public hearings with 60 witnesses over three months and received over 100 submissions from government bodies, organisations and individuals.

The government expanded the reach of educational programs aimed at both children and adults concerning online hazards, emphasising the eSafety Commissioner's authority to eliminate harmful information.

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