A SENIOR councillor has called for smartphones to be banned for under 16s amid concern at the circulation of disturbing images and video on social media after a horrific murder in North Ayrshire.

Graphic video footage has been widely circulated via social media following the death of Alan Lawson.

The 36-year-old, from Saltcoats, was attacked at a property in Alexander Avenue in Largs on Saturday, February 3.

He died in hospital three days later.

The images and video sparked concern over the ease with which such upsetting footage can be shared on social media.

Similar concerns were raised by the mother of teenager Brianna Ghey recently after the conviction and sentencing of Scarlett Jenkinson and Eddie Ratcliffe for the murder of the 16-year-old. 

Police say they are following "a positive line of enquiry" and are aware of social media footage believed to be linked to the investigation. 

Ayrshire Today: Police at Alexander Avenue on Thursday lunchtimePolice at Alexander Avenue on Thursday lunchtime (Image: Charlie Gilmour)

Police Scotland have opened an online portal asking for clips and photos to be sent to them.

One Largs parent said: "It is such an awful thing that has happened.

"Having seen some of the photos, it made me want to be sick. I wish now that I could unsee it. It is horrific and vile.

"It is very worrying that this stuff can be shared around so publicly to so many people, just by the click of a button.

"Lots of people have seen the footage, and that is very worrying in itself."

North Coast councillor Tom Marshall, leader of North Ayrshire Council's Conservative group said: "In England, the mother of murdered teenager Brianna Ghey has called for smartphones to be made available for under-16s without social media apps - and I 100 per cent agree with that.

Ayrshire Today: Cllr Tom MarshallCllr Tom Marshall (Image: North Ayrshire Council)

"I endorse that under 16s should not be allowed to have smartphones and be able to load all these apps.

"There is too much in the way of horrible things that can go on in people's phones.

"These social media platforms bear a big responsibility for content control at their end, and parents need to put controls in place at the other end for their children to make sure that they can't have access.

"I find the fact that it can be shared so widely very disconcerting, and appalling."

The NSPCC children's charity has published a social media guide to help parents and guardians prevent children from accessing social media platforms which may contain dangerous content.

The charity's website states: "Each app your child uses will have an age rating and it's useful to know what these are.

"Many have a minimum age of 13 years, but you should check the age rating of individual apps to make sure – see our list below.

"You know your child best, and you might decide that they need to be a little bit older before they can use certain apps."

Conservative MP Miriam Cates has suggested that under-16s should be banned from using smartphones for the sake of their mental health, and put the case to Rishi Sunak at Prime Minister's Questions last month.

She said there had been a steep rise in poor teenage mental health since 2010, and that it was "time to consider banning social media and perhaps even smartphones for under 16s".

The prime minister said Ms Cates was "absolutely right to highlight the impact of what happens online to our children" and that their Online Safety Act tackles both criminal activity online and protects children from harmful or inappropriate content.

However, Brianna's mother, Esther Ghey told news outlets she doesn't believe the legislation goes far enough, and said "drastic action" was needed to protect children.