'Kids 12 and Under Shouldn't Be on Social Media': Bill Could Put Parents Back in Control
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With parents across the country concerned about the impact of social media on young children, a bipartisan group of senators – two Democrats and two Republicans – drafted a bill they say represents millions of American parents who believe social media companies have too much negative influence on teens and younger children.
"We simply say kids 12 and under shouldn't be on a social media platform at all," said Hawaiian Sen. Brian Schatz (D).
So they've written a simple straightforward measure that's easy to understand.
"Normally, you see a bill come out of D.C. that is sometimes thousands of pages long – this one's eight," said Alabama Sen. Katie Britt (R).
The bill has three key points:
1) Kids under 13 would be banned from social media.
2) Children 13 through 17 would need a parent or guardian's consent to create an account.
3) It would forbid social media companies from using algorithms to recommend content to users under 18.
"And I think people appreciate the simplicity – if a parent can't understand the bill, it's hard for them to rally behind it," Sen. Schatz said.
Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy (D) has seen both the positives and negatives of social media.
"You know, sometimes the silly and entertaining content that they get on those sites brings joy to their life," Sen. Murphy said. "But I've also seen the tremendous downside of seeing how some of their friends who are in trouble get very quickly spun into deep, dark corners of the Internet."
Sen. Schatz believes the growing evidence is clear: social media is making kids more depressed and wreaking havoc on their mental health. The National Institutes of Health found children under 18 are susceptible to social-media health-related problems including depression, eating disorders, and anxiety.
The CDC shows 60% of girls using social media report feeling persistent sadness or hopelessness, with 30% seriously considering suicide.
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The senators' bill is one of several measures being proposed in Washington calling for stricter regulations on social media companies. Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton (R) says their bill puts parents back in control of what their kids experience online.
"I've had so many people reach out to me and say, 'thank you for proposing a solution, for helping me get my responsibility, my rights as a parent in the digital world that I have in the real world,'" Sen. Cotton said.
The senators know there will be pushback from tech companies. And any legislation proposing to regulate Big Tech and social media will face major challenges – in Congress itself – including disagreements about overregulating and questions about civil liberties. So, it remains to be seen if any bill can successfully move through both the House and Senate.
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