Mark Zuckerberg has apologised to families over the harms of social media in a US hearing which lambasted the CEOs of online platforms for their role in child safety.

The bosses of Meta, TikTok, X and other social media companies testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday.

The hearing began with recorded testimony from children and parents who said they or their children were exploited on social media. Throughout the event, parents who lost children to suicide, silently held up pictures in their memory.

In a series of heated exchanges, the CEO’s faced questioning over their personal responsibility to protect young people.

Following a heated exchange, Zuckerberg turned to apologise to the parents at the hearing, saying he was sorry for “the things that their families have suffered”.

Snapchat had broken ranks ahead of the hearing and began backing a federal bill that would create a legal liability for apps and social platforms who recommend harmful content to minors.

Snap CEO Evan Spiegel, who also took the opportunity to apologise to families, asked the industry to back the bill.

Meanwhile, TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew said the company is vigilant about enforcing its policy barring children under the age of 13 from using the app.

Linda Yaccarino CEO of X, formerly known as Twitter, said the site does not cater to children.

The hearing comes as lawmakers across the world are growing increasingly concerned about the effects of social media on young people’s lives.

Parents in particular claim that social media can hurt users under-18, including worries that it risks driving them to depression or even suicide.