60 Minutes: Robb Evans reveals toll social media took on daughter amid calls to ban Aussie teens

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A grieving father has revealed his teenage daughter’s disturbing search history before her suicide, claiming social media exploited his daughter’s vulnerability regarding her ideas of healthy living.

Fitness coach Robb Evans made a disturbing revelation on Nine’s 60 Minutes: He told the show that his daughter Liv believed what she saw online more than what he told her about healthy living.

Mr Evans claimed that social media giant Instagram had abused his daughter, “whether intentionally or not”, leading to the shocking act after her anorexia peaked due to bullying in the school playground.

His warning comes amid calls to ban social media for teenagers across Australia, while two US states prepare to impose new rules on thousands of children online.

“People who say I’m healthy and I live on 200 calories a day,” Mr Evans said on the show.

“I said, ‘Liv, you’re lying.’

“I said, ‘You have to understand that these people may say they are healthy,’ but I said, ‘They can’t survive on 200 calories a day, and this is why.'”

Mr Evans said Australia should ban children from using social media apps.

“I compare our current situation to the situation when we changed gun laws,” he said.

“Yes, there will be some backlash, but we have to do this.

“It’s the right thing to do and you just have to take a stand.

“Instagram provides the perfect platform for people who are vulnerable and feeling worse.

“I mean, it certainly has a lot to answer for.”

American social psychologist and author Jonathan Haidt said there are important connections between social media use and the increase in mental illness among teenagers.

“We have an international epidemic of depression, anxiety, self-harm and suicide,” Mr Haidt told 60 Minutes.

“What we saw was an almost instantaneous transformation of childhood into a form that I believe is incompatible with healthy human development.

“Something happened in the early 2010s that sent teenagers’ mental health into a downward spiral.”

According to Haidt, studies have shown that teenagers around the world suffer from mental health problems more often than the generations before them.

“Something has happened around the world that has led to a deterioration in mental health,” he said.

“The only possible theory as to why there might be a global shift is the massive change in their daily lives as they experienced a phone-based childhood with a smartphone, front-facing camera, social media and high-speed internet.

“They spend more time on it and it harms them much more.

“Chronic social comparison, all other girls look better than you.

“They all use filters or carefully edited photos.”

Meta, the owner of Facebook and Instagram, has said it has taken steps to find and remove harmful social media content.

Earlier this year, the company announced that it would hide more content from teens and put those teens’ accounts on the most restrictive content control settings.

“We regularly consult with youth development, psychology and mental health experts to make our platforms safe and age-appropriate for young people. This includes improving our understanding of what types of content may be less appropriate for teens,” Meta said in a statement.

“While we allow people to share content talking about their own struggles with suicide, self-harm and eating disorders, our policy is not to recommend this content and we have focused on ways to make it harder to find.

“We already hide results for search terms related to suicide and self-harm, which fundamentally violate our rules, and we are extending this protection to other terms.”

Due to this global crisis, politicians in Florida are calling for teenagers under 14 to be banned from accessing social media. 15- and 16-year-olds will need their parents’ consent to do so.

Texas also recently passed a law requiring parental consent before a user under 18 can open an account.

Communications Minister Michelle Rowland says the Australian government will closely monitor how these bans work and whether they are effective.

“One of the key questions here is about enforceability, incentives and how the platforms can actually comply with these rules. That includes whether the penalties are sufficient,” Ms Rowland told 60 Minutes.

“We are examining all available options.

“We will continue to closely monitor what is happening in Florida.

“If it works and has the desired effect, we will definitely consider it.”

South Australia had previously decided to ban social media for children under 14 years of age.

The state government has appointed former High Court Chief Justice Robert French to conduct a legal review of the blocking of children’s accounts.

Mr French will examine what regulatory and technological “paths” the government could take to enforce a ban.

Government policy also requires parental consent for children aged 14 and 15.

Meanwhile, in New South Wales, Premier Chris Minns said a summit would be held in October “to address the increasing harm that online platforms are causing to children and young people.”

Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek said the government takes children’s mental health seriously.

“People forget how recently these things have been around, like the first iPhone in 2007 and the real breakthrough of social media in 2009,” Ms Plibersek told 2GB.

“It wasn’t that long ago.

“During this time we have seen really dramatic bad effects on children’s mental health and wellbeing.

“We are really seeing a sharp increase in numbers.

“I can’t say whether one causes the other, but there is certainly a connection, and it existed before Covid.

“Many people say children are isolated because of Covid, but this was obvious even before Covid.”

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