Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock has said he finds it infuriating that social media firms do not do more to block under-13s from their sites.
The father-of-three said the “new world” of social media made the process of growing up and getting “comfortable” with oneself harder than in the past.
He has asked the chief medical officer, Professor Dame Sally Davies, to draw up new guidance for children on using social media.
In an interview with Grazia magazine, the father to two sons and a daughter, all under the age of 13, said his own children were not allowed on social media.
He said: “This is one of the hardest times to be growing up.
“It’s a very hard time to be a parent, too, because of the amount of pressures that impact on young people.”
He added: “Everybody goes through a period of becoming comfortable with themselves; that’s part of growing up. It was hard in the old world of simple communications, but in this new world it’s harder still.”
Asked whether his children were active on social media yet, Mr Hancock said: “No. My daughter is the eldest, she’s 12.
“Social media companies say their products shouldn’t be used by under-13s and it infuriates me that they make it very easy for under-13s to use them and don’t do anything to stop them, leaving it all down to parents.”
He said he worried about the pressures on young women, saying girls were “too often in despair looking at pictures they see online and thinking, ‘Why don’t I look like that?’, even though many of these pictures are staged – it’s not just somebody on a normal day in their normal setting.”
Mr Hancock also spoke about postnatal depression and the need for greater support for new mothers.
He said: “Giving birth should be one of the most wonderful days of your life.
“But we all know that is often not the case.
“Depression immediately after birth is well documented, but it needs to be much more part of the standard support that the NHS gives to mothers.
“PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) can manifest itself several years later.
“We’ve got to make sure that we recognise it and treat it appropriately.”
Talking about the births of his own children, Mr Hancock said: “The experiences were very different…
“I really do understand what it feels like when things don’t go right, and I understand the pressures that are put on and how difficult it can be.”
Twitter said its services are not directed at children and may not be used by under-13s.
A spokeswoman added: “At Twitter our main priority is to serve and improve the health of the public conversation.
“This means surfacing more quality, credible content, building new policies and safety tools, and investing in more proactive technology to tackle issues which detract from the health of the conversation.
“In 2018, we made more than 70 changes to make the service healthier and safer.
“We will continue to build on this momentum in 2019 with renewed energy and a singular focus on protecting the customers we serve.”
Facebook declined to comment. Its policy says under-13s should not sign up to Facebook and users are asked to provide a date of birth.