Parents cannot be expected to monitor what their children are doing online 24/7, an MP has warned as she backed a campaign by Brianna Ghey’s mum.
Esther Ghey has called for the government to stop children having access to social media apps.
Charlotte Nichols, Warrington North MP, said a balance needed to be struck as technology firms currently do not take the responsibility they should.
The prime minister declined to say if he would consider such a proposal.
Brianna, 16, was stabbed to death after being lured to Culcheth Linear Park in Warrington, Cheshire, on the afternoon of 11 February 2023.
Her teenage killers – Scarlett Jenkinson and Eddie Ratcliffe – who were given life sentences on Friday, had a fascination with violence, torture and murder and had planned the killing for weeks using a messaging app.
Jenkinson had also watched videos of violence and torture on the dark web.
Ms Ghey told Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg it was “just not doable” for parents to check what children were seeing online.
She called for the government to stop children having access to social media apps on smartphones and said she wanted companies to flag searches of inappropriate material to parents.
“We’d like a law introduced so that there are mobile phones that are only suitable for under-16s,” she said.
“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.
“And also to have software that is automatically downloaded on the parents’ phone which links to the children’s phone, that can highlight key words.
“So if a child is searching the kind of words that Scarlett and Eddie were searching, it will then flag up on the parent’s phone.”
Labour MP, Ms Nichols, told BBC Radio Manchester it was about making sure “we are doing everything we can” to tighten safeguarding online.
“Technology companies and social media companies in particular don’t take the responsibility they should,” she said.
“But I also don’t think it’s reasonable to put all of the responsibility on parents when, with the best will in the world, they cannot be expected to monitor what their children are doing online 24/7 when they have a smartphone in their pocket.
“There’s got to be a balance and I think we already understand there are age-specific bans on all sorts things including cigarettes and alcohol, cinema classifications, but there needs to be a way of looking at the online space in the same way.”
She added that the Online Safety Bill had taken an “inordinate amount of time”.
“I think this is why Esther’s proposals are so interesting,” she said.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, who is on a visit to Northern Ireland, said his thoughts were with Brianna’s family after the “unspeakable, unspeakable, awful act” but declined to say whether the government might consider such a proposal.
Mr Sunak, echoing comments from Education Secretary Gillian Keegan, pointed to the “tough new powers” now in force under the Online Safety Act.
The legislation passed into law in November and requires social media companies to curb the spread of illegal content on their platforms and protect children from seeing potentially harmful material.
Large fines are mong the potential penalties for those who breach the new rules.
Mr Sunak 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.”