Christopher Luxon says social media companies must do more to protect children after Mark Zuckerberg grilling

Prime Minister Christopher Luxon has put social media companies on notice.  

Luxon said the tech giants must do more to protect children, suggesting clearer parental controls to stop online exploitation and harm.  

"We have major challenges here in New Zealand around sexploitation in particular," Luxon said. 

"The tech companies are trying to balance security and privacy and obviously they're under different bits of legislation, and obviously they've got to try and work that out [but] they need to work harder. 

"I think they need to work much harder," he stresseed. 

That's especially with younger generations increasingly glued to their screens.  

"I expect those tech companies to be well-resourced in the trust and security spaces," Luxon said. "I expect them to be able to communicate strongly the tools that are already available, that should be deployed - particularly by parents with respect to children."  

Work's being done on age verification and limits - there are tools for parents to use now, but Luxon said they aren't exactly user-friendly.  

"One of the things that I think they could do, as quite a practical action, is actually communicate much better the parental controls that are available." 

Thursday morning's US Senate hearings follow remarks from the country's Surgeon General who, in attributing the country's mental health crisis to social media, wrote: "I am concerned that social media is an important driver of that crisis - one that we must urgently address."  

In New Zealand, social media has long been a bugbear for educators - even those running schools up to just year 6. 

"It is there. Even though their age [is younger], the children are on social media and we do sometimes get situations coming into school that happened out of school," Browns Bay School principal Peter Mulcahy told Newshub.   

So here comes the cellphone bans. Browns Bay School has had one for years and others will soon be forced to follow suit.  

"Schools should be consulting with their communities, if they haven't already done so. And if they have done so, then they'll be able to put their policies in place," Education Minister Erica Stanford said.   

Mulcahy believes it's a no-brainer.  

"We just said, 'Hey, look, this is the way it's going to be' and... parents were really OK about it," he said.