A Texas state lawmaker has proposed a bill that would ban social media use for children under the age of 18.
Proponents of the bill claim it is part of an effort to combat mental health issues such as depression and other negative effects of online use.
Rep. Jared Patterson (R-TX) filed bill HB 896, which requires that users be at least 18 years of age to join a social media platform.
The Republican representative compared the use of social media by children today to cigarette use before 1964.
“Once thought to be perfectly safe for users, social media access to minors has led to remarkable rises in self-harm, suicide, and mental health issues,” he explained.
Texas Public Policy Foundation CEO Greg Sindelar lauded Patterson for filing the law.
“The harms social media poses to minors are demonstrable not just in the internal research from the very social media companies that create these addictive products, but in the skyrocketing depression, anxiety, and even suicide rates we are seeing afflict children,” Sindelar said.
“We are tremendously grateful for Rep. Jared Patterson’s leadership on keeping this precious population safe,” added the CEO, “and TPPF is fully supportive of prohibiting social media access to minors to prevent the perpetual harms of social media from devastating the next generation of Texans.”
The proposed legislation would mandate that social media websites confirm a user’s age via photo identification and also empower parents to request a child’s illegitimate account be removed.
Rep. Patterson shared an article discussing the bill on Twitter, highlighting a study that concluded almost a third of teenage girls feel that Instagram worsens their bodily insecurities.
"A @WSJ study found social media use takes a mental-health toll… with 40% of teens saying their sole purpose for posting… is to look good to other people, while 32% of teenage girls felt that Instagram only worsened their body insecurities."https://t.co/xIAiW0yX9q
— Rep. Jared Patterson (@JaredLPatterson) December 9, 2022
Conservative political commentator Matt Walsh touched on the subject in a recent episode of his show, titled “How Social Media Is Destroying Our Kids.”
“There should be laws banning social media companies from allowing minors on their platform that should exist,” Walsh said.
He went even further with this view, arguing, “If we were really serious though, we would actually have laws banning anyone under the age of 18 from owning a smartphone in the first place.”
Walsh acknowledged that his ideas may bring controversy.
“This idea only seems over the top and shocking to people today because we ourselves are mindless phone-addicted zombies and we cannot imagine a life apart from our beloved devices,” he said.
As it stands today, the majority of social media sites openly allow children aged 13 and up to join their platforms and require zero proof to verify age.