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    Wippa and Galluzo say 36 Months ‘is not an attack on social media’

    36 Months, the movement launched by Michael ‘Wippa’ Wipfli and Rob Galluzzo this week to raise the social media citizenship age from 13 to 16, isn’t about “banning social media”, the pair tell Mediaweek

    The pro bono social change movement, supported by News Corp Australia and Nova, aims to change federal legislation, by calling on families, community leaders, and educators to sign the 36 Months petition, which will then be presented to parliament.

    “It’s so interesting just seeing all of the headlines in the press over the weekend, and some of them seem quite naive to be honest,” says Galluzzo, the founder of production company FINCH.

    “We are not anti Facebook, and we’re not anti Instagram. This is not an attack on social media.

    “36 months is very targeted in its ambition.”

    That ambition is defined by two phases: “Our first phase is to raise the age threshold of social media citizenship,” Galluzo continues.

    “When we say social media, we mean any social network that encourages interactive engagement through addictive features.”

    Implementing age verification is already viable, notes Wipfli. Based on the duo’s conversations with government, the technology would involve two-factor verification.

    “It’s not hard to do,” he says. 

    “Banks are doing it, many platforms are doing it. That ID verification is not a challenging piece of tech. That exists.”

    The pair were brought together by their existing partnerships and shared concern as fathers. “Forever since I’ve known Rob, we play with all sorts of ideas and toys and things we could possibly do together,” Wiplfi explains.

    When they realised the magnitude of the social media crisis for adolescents in Australia, they felt a call to action.

    “I think we both gained some education around it really quickly and understood if not us, then who? Something had to happen.

    “It’s exciting to think that we could pinch that 36 months back, and give it back to the families to build and reconnect.”

    Wipfli describes the consistent and unnerving sentiment from his conversations in the public arena surrounding social media usage for adolescents as an “absolute concern.”

    “It seems to be the natural conversation, whether it’s at school or whether you’re on the sidelines with your kids at a football game, whatever it might be, whenever social media is brought up around adolescence, the adolescent brain and teenagers: it’s concern. It’s absolute concern.

    “I remember when I first read about some of the states considering this in the US, and my heart skipped a beat. I thought, imagine if we could have that here. Imagine if between the age of 13 and 16, that 36 months, you are allowed to develop into the person that you want to be and with the right influence from the safety of your home. And from people that loved you not be force fed something by a smart algorithm.

    “Rob and I are both dads, we put our heads together and thought now’s the time, let’s pull the trigger on this.

    “I knew I was able to create some platforms to step on and I know, with Rob’s background in production, and also advertising, he was able to get the message out there, and he was able to get the right message out there.”

    He summarises the motivation: “How can we free up the kids so they can get to know themselves before the rest of the world does?

    “It wouldn’t surprise me if the social media companies jumped first and said, ‘absolutely, we’ll play ball.’

    “For one, they don’t want to be forced into his decision. Secondly, they’re not going to want that headline worldwide. They want to be able to look good.”

    According to Raising Children Network, the rise of social media usage has been linked to mental health issues, cyberbullying, anxiety, depression, self-harm, and suicide in Australian teenagers. 

    News Corp research found that 70% of Australian teenagers have had negative experiences using social media, and a third have been exposed to disturbing or traumatic content. A quarter have been cyber-bullied or harassed. 1 in 10 have been victim of revenge porn.

    Galluzzo explains how the movement will roll out. Phase one is about changing legislation, and phase two about offering families and educators tools and initiatives to better connect with teens.

    “That phase two becomes very important, very positive,” he says, “and it’s about building opportunities for Australian families to stay better connected.”

    Wipfli and Galluzzo have been in conversations with the government and recruited key figures from entertainment, education, and politics to back the cause.

    Wipfli jokes about how he onboarded personal mate, former NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet: “I thought, who has the most kids in New South Wales? And he’s got seven.”

    “When Rob and I sat down with him he said, ‘Guys, stop talking. You don’t need to sell it to me. I get it. I get it completely’. So Dom and I sat down with News Corp, and we invited them to come on our campaign to help spread the word.”

    He adds about their other supporting partner: “Nova is obviously the natural fit in the home for me, I’ve been there for 13 years. When I sat down with Nova, they said, ‘absolutely. We need to back this.’”

    ABC’s parenting psychologist, Maggie Dent, and media personality Hamish Blake are also lending their names to the cause, featuring on the upcoming 36 Months panel activation at South by South West Sydney in October.

    The partnership will be long-lasting, Galluzzo adds: “This is a commitment for the next few years to make this change… There is plenty of work to be done. We’re in it for the long haul.

    “We’re building something of value. This is not just a headline for this week.”

    He concedes that, somewhat ironically, some resources can be found on 36 Month’s Instagram, designed for parents to opt in and fill that 36 month gap with value.

    Wipfli says of the ultimate goal: “It’s a kid that can go to school, and if things are bad at school, it can be left at the gate, he’s got a chance, she’s got a chance, to come through, shut the front door, and know that they’re in a safe place that’s loved, know that they’re in a safe home, and they can leave everything behind and focus on what they want at home and what their interests might be. Not a kid that comes home and the bullying continues.

    “I don’t want teenagers to feel that their only worth is based on how they’re judged on a ridiculous world that they might be living online. To go to bed thinking, ‘am I good enough?’ based on reactions from social media, and then waking up to check again to see if there’s any change. That is not a healthy thing for kids.”

    Wipfli quotes Professor Scott Galloway: “We’ll look back on this and say, what have we done to our kids?

    “In recent times, we know that there’s a period there which has had a serious impact. But I don’t think it’s too late. I think it’s a chance now where we can move forward, making the correct decision for our kids.”

    See also: Exclusive: Wippa and Galluzzo launch 36 Months to raise social media age

    The post Wippa and Galluzo say 36 Months ‘is not an attack on social media’ appeared first on Mediaweek.

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