Jeremy Hunt has accused social media platforms of failing to protect children from harm to their mental health and emotional wellbeing.
The health secretary met with bosses of companies including Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and Apple in November, but on Sunday he expressed his disappointment that not enough progress had been made to better protect children.
In a strongly-worded letter, Hunt said the tech giants were “collectively turning a blind eye to a whole generation of children being exposed to the harmful emotional side effects of social media prematurely”.
He said this was both “morally wrong and deeply unfair on parents”, as well as “unacceptable and irresponsible” to put parents in a position where they were forced to choose between allowing their children to use platforms which they are too young to access or exclude them from taking part with their peers.
Facebook, Instagram and Twitter all have a lower age limit of 13, while Snapchat has a version for under-13s.
In a column for the Sunday Times, Hunt added that he “felt a growing sense of unease, both as a parent and as health minister” and spoke of his fears for his own children, aged three, six and seven.
Hunt said that he would consider legislation to try to improve the situation.
The government is due to publish its response to the Internet Safety Strategy consultation in May, which considers the responsibility of companies to their users to prevent online harm.
Hunt has also asked the chief medical officer to review the impact of technology on children and young people’s mental health.