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Smartphone Free Childhood call for WhatsApp to reverse age reduction policy

SMARTPHONE Free Childhood, the grassroots parents' movement, called on WhatsApp to reverse the change in age policy, which lowers the minimum age of use from:- 16 to 13 years old. As of 11 April 2024, anyone in Europe over the age of 12 can now legally access the messaging service, after WhatsApp made a planned change to its age restriction policy.

This comes despite growing national calls for greater protections for children around smartphone and social media use, including from the 60,000 parents, who have joined Smartphone Free Childhood, since it launched spontaneously 8 weeks ago. A recent nationwide poll found that 95% of parents said they wanted big tech companies to do more to protect their children, with 80% believing that age limits on social media were too low.

Daisy Greenwell, co-founder of Smartphone Free Childhood said:- "WhatsApp are putting shareholder profits 1st and children's safety second. Reducing their age of use from:- 16 to 13 years old is completely tone deaf and ignores the increasingly loud alarm bells being rung by:- scientists, doctors, teachers, child safety experts, parents and mental health experts alike. This policy boosts their user figures and maximises shareholder profits at the expense of children's safety. Lowering their age restrictions from:- 16 to 13 sends a message to parents that WhatsApp is safe for those over the age of 12, and yet a growing body of research suggests otherwise. Meanwhile parents and teachers in the Smartphone Free Childhood community regularly reach out to us to share that it is a contributor to bullying, sleep disruption and access to harmful content."

Meanwhile a growing body of research continues to raise serious questions about how suitable closed group messaging apps are for children and young teens. 1recent study found that 56% of students aged:- 8 to 18 reported that they had experienced cyberbullying in their class WhatsApp groups. Elsewhere, heavy use of screen media has been associated with shorter sleep duration and more mid-sleep awakening (in a study of more than 11,000 British children³) and many teachers have anecdotally reported to Smartphone Free Childhood that late night activity on WhatsApp is an increasing problem affecting children's mood and ability to concentrate in class. Speaking about her recent report in partnership with the Association of School and College Leaders, Dr Kaitlyn Regehr Associate Professor of Digital Humanities at UCL states that:- "Our report shows that private, or closed, groups can enable more extreme material being shared, which in turn can have implications for young people's offline behaviours. Young people increasingly exist within digital echo chambers, which can normalise harmful rhetoric."

Furthermore, numerous reports link WhatsApp to children accessing extreme content; including:- sexual imagery, self harm material and videos of extreme violence such as beheadings and terrorist attacks. Studies proves that nearly a quarter of people viewing such content on social media will experience symptoms of PTSD. Meanwhile, the end to end encryption on WhatsApp threatens children's safety on the app, making it hard for parents to understand who their children are talking to and leaving them at risk of grooming by sexual predators. One in ten children report using the messaging site to talk to people they don't already know, and 1 in 6, 14 to 16 year olds, have received something distressing from a stranger on the site.

Despite these significant concerns, WhatsApp have as yet given no indication of how they plan to protect all the new under 16 users on their site, or how they will comply with UK law to remove the millions of under 13s already on the platform.
Research links:-

1 ParentKind.Org.UK

2 Base.Core-Evidence.EU

3 NIH.Gov

5 ChronicleLive.Co.UK

6 ScienceDaily.Com 

7 UKChildrensCommissioner.Gov.UK

Ardonagh Advisory builds presence in North West England with acquisition of SIB Insurance

SOUTHPORT Insurance Brokers Limited (SIB Insurance) has been acquired by Ardonagh Advisory, an independent commercial broker, further strengthening Ardonagh's presence in the North West of England.

SIB Insurance provides cover across a broad range of risks and has strong expertise in the Industrial, Care and Agricultural sectors.

Founded in 1965, SIB Insurance is a well established Regional broker with longstanding client relationships. Its team of around 20 employees provide expert support from their Southport base.

Managing Director, Ian Robertson, will continue to lead the business, supported by his existing management team.

Richard Tuplin, CEO Advisory Insurance Broking Ltd, said:- "SIB Insurance is a high quality Regional broker with clear specialisms that has earned the respect of its longstanding client-base over many decades by delivering excellent service. Within Ardonagh Advisory we've developed real expertise in giving our new businesses everything they need to remain client centric, while also giving them the platform to reach the next level. I'm looking forward to working with Ian and the team and supporting SIB Insurance's onward success as part of Advisory."

Ian Robertson, SIB Insurance Managing Director, said:- "Ardonagh Advisory is a great home for SIB Insurance, the placement opportunities we'll now have access to gives us a great basis from which to grow, while also enabling us to offer even more to our existing clients. It's fair to say that our businesses share a lot of common values and I know that we are going to enjoy a long and successful future together. I'd like to say a huge thank you to our fantastic team and to all our clients who have been there throughout our journey and we look forward to supporting them into the future."

Joe Conway, Ardonagh Advisory M&A Director, said:- "It's been a pleasure getting to know Ian through the process, and I'm thrilled to be able to welcome him and the team to Ardonagh Advisory. Advisory offers a lot to high quality businesses and we're very much open for conversations with other interested parties."

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