Rome Newsroom, Jan 26, 2021 / 13:00 pm
An Italian cardinal expressed concern this week about the use of social media by children, encouraging the Church to do its part to give young people hope for the future amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Cardinal Gualtiero Bassetti, president of the Italian bishops’ conference, spoke about kids and social media use on Jan. 24, after the death of a 10-year-old girl in Sicily, which some have tied to use of the video platform TikTok.
“You have to pay close attention to kids. At the very least, they can approach certain [social media] programs when they are older -- 14-15 years old -- but at 8-10 years old it is harmful,” Bassetti told journalists after Sunday Mass at the cathedral of the archdiocese of Perugia.
The cardinal was responding to a question about the accidental death of a 10-year-old child in Palermo last week. The child’s father told the Italian newspaper La Repubblica that, according to their other daughter, the girl had been playing a TikTok “game” before her death. The “game,” reportedly called the “blackout challenge,” involves restricting oxygen to the brain to induce a high.
“Certainly there is also a responsibility of the media,” Bassetti said, declining to comment on the specific situation of the family in Palermo, which he said he did not know.
He added that with young children, “the sense of imitation is very strong, and if you create a hero figure, or even the sense of competition, we can have tragic results, as has happened.”
The coronavirus pandemic has created “a sad moment and a difficult moment, especially for kids and young people,” he said, “and therefore, we need to be close to them also as a Church. We must do more.”
The girl died in a hospital after being found with her cell phone in the bathroom on Jan. 20 by her five-year-old sister. The child’s phone was taken by police.