Is it Time to Ban Social Media for Kids? Fed-up Parents and Senate Say Yes

by Joshua Brown
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Senator Katie Britt says when she’s at home in Alabama, people bring up social media a lot – especially at school sports events, and when she was running for the Senate. Parents wanted to talk about how it was hurting their children. She also knows this issue firsthand as a mom of two 13- and 14-year-olds.

Britt, who is a Republican and also a parent with young children and teenagers, just last week decided that enough was enough. He introduced a special law together with three other senators to help keep kids safe when they are online. Britt said it was time for action and that the time to act was now.

Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy is a father to an 11-year-old and a 14-year-old, so he has firsthand experience with this topic. He believes that social media can be good for kids in some ways, like helping them stay connected during the pandemic and posting fun videos that make them happy. But there are also disadvantages to social media because some of the people he knows have gone down dangerous paths online.

Murphy (a Democrat), said, “We have to do something about this issue. Whenever members of Congress go home, the people there keep mentioning it to them.”

Legislation proposed by Britt, Murphy, Schatz and Cotton wants to stop children under 13 from using social media. Also, if you’re under 18 then you will need permission from a parent or guardian before making an account. The senators participating in this legislation said that millions of parents feel worried about what their kids can see on the internet. So, they want to make it safer for children and teens.

“It would be ridiculous for some kind of computer program to try and get into your kid’s head, and it would also be really wrong for a computer program to force distressing content on someone as young as thirteen,” said Schatz who brought the bipartisan group together.

The law has set age limits, which means social media networks can’t show content to people younger than 18. They must also use their best technology to make sure that their users are old enough.

There are two political parties that have come up with a bill. People in Congress think it’s a good idea and this bill is about getting stricter rules for social media companies, which haven’t followed the rules in Washington for a long time. Maybe because of this, some states like Utah or Arkansas have made their own laws about it. This makes it harder to make one law on the federal level.

Four senators have noticed a strong, shared opinion on the issue of mental health among children in our post-pandemic world. Studies from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed that nearly two-thirds of teenage girls felt very sad or hopeless, while a third had thoughts of suicide.

“No matter what their political views might be, this is something that all parents in the whole country have in common,” said Cotton.

It seems like a difficult task to pass laws that will regulate technology and social media companies. We have seen in Europe that they have stricter rules about staying safe and protecting privacy online, but for some reason America has not been able to make laws which even the big companies agree with. When this kind of legislation was suggested before, it got stuck because people did not reach an agreement on how much to control things, or if those rules should be limited so it does not take away our freedoms.

Many people in different political parties agree that something should be done about tech companies, however the two sides have different views on what it should be. Chuck Schumer, a Democratic leader from New York, said that “we need some kind of protection for children online” but he did not say how this would happen yet. This means that it is still not clear if any laws will pass through both the Senate (run by Democrats) and the House (run by Republicans).

A bill was recently proposed by two senators, Richard Blumenthal and Marsha Blackburn, to make social media safer for children. This new law would give kids the ability to turn off features of social media that could be addictive, as well as allow safety settings to be automatically turned on by default.

On Wednesday, two senators put forward a new bill which hopes to keep kids safe online. It would help stop companies from collecting private information that belongs to children and teens, as well as stop businesses from advertising directly to them. Legislators in the House of Representatives are also working on their own version of the bill that will give both adults and children better control over their data when they use the internet.

Some bills have been made to ban TikTok and give the government more control over foreign-owned platforms that could be a threat.

Industry groups don’t think these rules are good because teenagers may not be able to find professional help for topics like suicide or LGBTQ+ issues.

Being a parent in today’s society can be tough, but the government shouldn’t get involved with the relationship between parents and teenagers. According to Carl Szabo from NetChoice, an organization that works with companies like Meta, TikTok, Google, and Amazon, this would not be beneficial.

Chamber of Progress, an industry-oriented group, said that not allowing targeted content with algorithms would make it more difficult for teenagers to find age-appropriate stuff. Adam Kovacevich, the CEO of this organization, remarked “We should pay attention to what teens are saying since they think that social media has many positive aspects in their lives”.

Senator Blumenthal expressed his worries this week because the proposed bill may put too much pressure on parents. He said that the bill he collaborated with Senator Blackburn on is better since it puts those extra duties onto big tech companies instead of parents. On the other hand, Senator Schatz believed that their proposed bill is “simple” and should be accepted.

According to Schatz, it’s best if kids 12 or younger should not have social media accounts. Most people agree with this idea and they think Congress should make that decision.

Cotton says that even though most social media companies are already getting data from children, the bill will not cause any extra harm. The fact that there are variant bills in place shows that people care a lot about protecting kids when they use these platforms.

Murphy also adds that lots of teenagers want this kind of regulation too.

The kids who hang around my house know that they need to be safer when they are on strange websites. Britt’s friends and other parents in her walking group read news reports about what she did with this and all agreed, saying: “This is what we need.”

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