New Bill Would Ban Kids Under 13 From Social Media

A bipartisan bill was introduced this week as The Protecting Kids on Social Media Act, which bars children under the age of 13 from using social media.

This bill, however, contains many other little things that would affect the media usage of teens if it were to be implemented.

Children from 13 to 17 would need parental consent to create an account and would be deprived of the recommended content that uses algorithms to appeal to each individual.

This act was partly put in place due to a few studies that linked social media and mental health. As well as surveys such as the one published by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which found that 57% of high school girls, and 29% of high school boys, feel persistently sad. In fact, there were also findings that revealed that 22% of all high schoolers reporting they had seriously considered suicide.

However, some social media platforms claim to already have some safety measures in place. Some of which Antigone Davis, global head of safety for Meta, ensures are directed specifically at teens. For example, a teen’s created Instagram account is automatically set to private, receives notifications that suggest much needed breaks, and bans content promoting suicide, self-harm or eating disorders.

TikTok also spoke of its restrictions to younger teens, such as the lack of direct messaging, and sending or receiving virtual gifts or livestreams.

Republican Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas, however, a co-sponsor of the bill and father, speaks on the matter to CBS News: “My kids are young enough that it’s not a concern yet, but I do worry very much about it. There are lots of mechanisms for a more robust age verification system. The age verification that they’re doing now is essentially asking a 12-year-old to say, ‘Are you 18?’ And they click, ‘I’m 18,’ and now they’re online.”

Democratic Sen. Brian Schatz of Hawaii, also a co-sponsor and parent, speaks of the bill’s relation to other age limits as well: “We’ve made a decision, as a society, that you should have to wait to a certain age to say, buy alcohol or buy tobacco. We’re not so naive that we don’t think teenagers have never smoked a cigarette or never drank a beer. But that doesn’t mean you should just throw up your hands, that there’s no solution at all.”

Some parents, though, don’t see the bill as enough. Including Samuel Chapman, a parent whose 16-year-old son died from fentanyl-laced drugs purchased through Snapchat. He advocates for stronger restrictions, since every restriction put in place thus far “any 12-year-old has been able to get around”.

As opposed to some advocacy groups like Common Sense Media, Fairplay for Kids and the Center for Digital Democracy, who think the bill could be too much for kids in unhealthy households. Since the fact that parental consent is required for kids under 18 could be depriving LGBTQ+ kids of much needed resources.


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