Sen. Schatz joins bipartisan effort to protect children from harms of social media
U.S. senators Brian Schatz (D-HI), Tom Cotton (R-AR), Chris Murphy (D-CT) and Katie Britt (R-AL) introduced new legislation to help protect children from the harmful impacts of social media.
The Protecting Kids on Social Media Act would set a minimum age of 13 to use social media apps and would require parental consent for children ages 13 to 17.
The bill also would prevent social media companies from feeding content using algorithms to users under the age of 18.
The Protecting Kids on Social Media Act would:
- Require social media companies to undertake rigorous age verification measures based on the latest technology, while prohibiting companies from using age verification information for any other purpose
- Prohibit children under the age of 13 from using social media, consistent with the current practices of major social media companies
- Prohibit social media companies from recommending content using algorithms to users under the age of 18
- Require a guardian’s permission for users under 18 to create an account
- Create a pilot project for a government-provided age verification system that platforms can choose to use
- Provide the Federal Trade Commission and state attorneys general authority to enforce the provisions of the bill.
“The growing evidence is clear: social media is making kids more depressed and wreaking havoc on their mental health,” Schatz said in a news release. “While kids are suffering, social media companies are profiting. This needs to stop.
“Our bill will help us stop the growing social media health crisis among kids by setting a minimum age and preventing companies from using algorithms to automatically feed them addictive content based on their personal information.”
The United States is facing a mental health crisis and no group is affected more than adolescents, and especially young girls, the news release said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Youth Risk Behavior Survey found 57% of high school girls and 29% of high school boys felt persistently sad or hopeless in 2021, with 22% of all high school students reporting they had seriously considered attempting suicide in the preceding year.
One area that requires immediate action is the clear link between social media and poor mental health.
From 2019 to 2021, overall screen use among teens and tweens (ages 8 to 12) increased by 17%, with tweens using screens for five hours and 33 minutes per day and teens using screens for eight hours and 39 minutes.
Studies have shown a strong relationship between social media use and poor mental health, especially among children.
With this clear evidence, the U.S. Surgeon General has warned that 13 is too early for social media use and suggested that 16, 17 or 18 may be as well.
The full bill text is available here.