Senators Propose Social Media Ban for Kids

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Need to Know from SafeWise
  • The Protecting Kids on Social Media Act would set age requirements for social media apps and require parental consent through age 18.
  • A bipartisan group of senators introduced the legislation on Wednesday to help curb screen time among teens and protect them online.
  • The FTC and state attorneys general would be empowered to enforce the bill, which could lead to lawsuits for social media companies.
  • However, the bill does not call out social media companies by name.

Legislation introduced in the Senate on Wednesday aims to help keep kids safe online, particularly on social media. The Protecting Kids on Social Media Act was introduced by a bipartisan group of senators, including Brian Schatz (D-Hawai‘i), Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), and Katie Britt (R-Ala.) as a means to “help protect children from the harmful impacts of social media,” according to a press release from Sen. Schatz’s office.

The legislation would set 13 as the minimum age requirement for social media apps and require parental consent for kids up to 17. Social media companies would also be prohibited from targeting users under 18 with algorithmic content.

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The senators cite the connection between social media and mental health for their proposed legislation. Sen. Schatz’s office writes, “social media usage is a cause for the mental health epidemic.”

Not the first piece of legislation

Last year, Congress did not pass bills introduced to protect kids’ online privacy, particularly on social media apps. The bill was said not to be as stringent as California’s law, which required app designs to “protect children’s mental and physical health,” according to Roll Call.

This year, it seemed like Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) would lead the charge on privacy for kids. In a February interview with NBC News, Hawley said he wanted to write a bill to protect kids from social media companies. Hawley alone introduced two bills in the Senate—one for age verification and the other for a report on the harm of social media.

Hawley is not part of the bipartisan group for this proposed bill.

And last month, Utah Gov. Spencer Cox (R) signed social media regulations requiring age verification and parental consent for minors. The bills also prohibit collecting information, displaying ads, and targeting children on social media sites. The law goes into effect on March 1, 2024.

Arkansas followed Utah’s lead and passed a bill in their House of Representatives to require age verification for social media accounts. It is not law yet.

Other states—including Connecticut, Louisiana, Maryland, Minnesota, New Jersey, Ohio, and Texas—are also considering social media age verification legislation.

Online privacy for kids today

Two primary threats for kids online today include cyberbullying and online predators, which this Senate bill fights. However, if the bill passes Congress, it will likely be another year until it is enforced, so parents need to talk to their kids about online safety.

Setting up ground rules—like not clicking unknown links and never sharing personal information—are reasonable first steps. Parental controls also allow parents to control screen time and app usage.

And, of course, parents should be on the lookout for signs of trouble that can help their kids early on. You’ll want to see if they’re hiding screens or creating new profiles without you knowing. Behavioral signs like losing interest in non-online activities and becoming sullen or withdrawn are key indicators too.

Above all, safety for kids and teens online is a fluid situation. Open communication with your kids will hopefully ensure they don’t hide things and can help you help them if scary things occur online.

Alex Kerai
Written by
Alex Kerai
Alex began writing for student newspapers and has managed to turn that into a career. During the COVID-19 pandemic, he wrote about small businesses for Biz2Credit and Business.org. Before that, he spent time in communications for higher education institutions, created marketing materials for nonprofits, and worked for entertainment companies in Los Angeles. Today, he reports on emerging consumer trends and his work can be seen on The Penny Hoarder, SafeWise, Business.org, Reviews.org, Move.org, WhistleOut.com, CableTV.com, HighSpeedInternet.com, and SatelliteInternet.com. When he's not writing, Alex watches too much TV, plays guitar, reads and writes fiction, and goes on nature walks.

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