On Tuesday, State Rep. Jared Patterson (R-Frisco) tweeted, “It’s long past time to recognize the incredible harm social media is doing to the mental health of young Texans. Next session, we put an end to it.”
“I’ll be introducing legislation next session to ban minors from using social media.”
Patterson’s statement was in response to a post on the conservative Texas Public Policy Foundation’s (TPPF) Cannon Online calling for limits on minors’ ability to use social media.
Zach Whiting, a senior fellow with TPPF, wrote, “Texas should be the national leader on the issue of child online safety by taking the bold step of banning social media use by minors.”
In Texas statute, a minor is defined as any individual below 18 years of age.
“States place age-restrictions on numerous behaviors, such as driving, voting, smoking, drinking, and entering into a valid contract, among other things. This proposal would recognize social media as a prohibited harm to minors.”
Currently, social media companies are prohibited from allowing children under 13 on their platforms nationwide under the Child Online Privacy Protection Act.
“It is clear our consumer protection laws need to be enhanced to better protect minors online, hold accountable the companies that fail to do so, and punish those who harm or attempt to harm minors online,” Whiting added.
Proponents of prohibiting minors from using social media point to its effects on behavioral and mental health.
“Over the years, Texas has taken steps to improve the physical health and safety of young people,” Patterson told The Texan. “Examples include precluding them from purchasing firearms, alcohol and tobacco, or requiring car seats, booster seats and even seat belts.”
“It’s past time we treat mental health as seriously as physical health. From the conversations I’ve had with school officials in recent weeks, I’ve come to better understand the mental health threat social media imposes on our youth. I look forward to having the open conversation with my constituents and my colleagues next session about raising the minimum age for social media from 13 years old to 18 years old.”
Those opposed, including the social media platforms themselves, say implementing such a requirement is too difficult.
A decade ago, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg publicly stated his intention to remove the 13-year age limit to join social media sites. A Facebook spokesman said at the time, “[R]ecent reports have highlighted just how difficult it is to implement age restrictions on the internet and that there is no single solution to ensuring younger children don’t circumvent a system, or lie about their age.”
Meta, Facebook’s rebranded parent company, is currently facing litigation from a family alleging Instagram caused their daughter’s eating disorder. Instagram recently announced tightened restrictions to access its platform, including using artificial intelligence to “guess” the age of a submitted image.
This wouldn’t be the first time the legislature eyed social media sites. Last year, the state passed legislation targeting platforms’ alleged censorship of conservatives, but the U.S. Supreme Court halted the law pending further consideration in May.
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Brad Johnson is a senior reporter for The Texan and an Ohio native who graduated from the University of Cincinnati in 2017. He is an avid sports fan who most enjoys watching his favorite teams continue their title drought throughout his cognizant lifetime. In his free time, you may find Brad quoting Monty Python productions and trying to calculate the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow.