If Arizona lawmakers genuinely care about the wellbeing of the state’s young people, they will pass a law that will make every kid under the age of 18 … hate them.
By restricting access to social media.
Lawmakers in Utah did it. And there is a bipartisan proposal in Congress to do it.
We should do it here.
Utah restricts access for those under 18
The Utah law, which goes into effect next March, says anyone under 18 must get parental permission to create a social media account.
It says that the social media companies must verify users’ ages.
It says parents must be able to monitor the content their kids are seeing and posting, and it says the accounts must be inaccessible between 10:30 p.m. and 6:30 a.m.
There will be court challenges, of course.
But it is the best way to force social media companies to consider the damage being done to young people and how best to diminish it.
Bill in Congress restricts kids under 13
The bill in Congress is similar.
It was introduced by Democratic Sens. Chris Murphy of Connecticut and Brian Schatz of Hawaii, along with Tom Cotton of Arkansas and Alabama’s Republican Sen. Katie Boyd Britt.
Their bill prohibits children under 13 from accessing social media and has parental consent requirements like the Utah law.
Companies like Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and other platforms aren’t going to like it, and may well fight it, but there is plenty of evidence that social media obsession has increased the mental health problems of young people, ranging from simple anxiety to suicidal tendencies.
In a statement, Sen. Schantz said, “Social media companies have stumbled onto a stubborn, devastating fact. The way to get kids to linger on the platforms and to maximize profit is to upset them — to make them outraged, to make them agitated, to make them scared, to make them vulnerable, to make them feel helpless, anxious [and] despondent.”
Teen social media access can be harmful
There is one other bill like this in Congress. And Arkansas, like Utah, has passed a bill.
No particular law is going to completely solve the problem.
And there are plenty of discussions to be had about whether trying to legislate such protection for young people is a good idea. I can already hear the argument that this should be a parental decision.
Ban TikTok? Where Arizona's members of Congress stand
But the fact is there are many, many restrictions we already place on minors. They can’t drink alcohol or gamble. They can’t get a hotel room. Or buy a lottery ticket. Get a tattoo. Or even adopt a dog.
Sen. Cotton in statement said, “From bullying and sex trafficking to addiction and explicit content, social media companies subject children and teens to a wide variety of content that can hurt them, emotionally and physically … By setting an age limit of 13 — and requiring parental consent until age 18 — our bill will put parents back in control of what their kids experience online.”
Arizona should pass a similar bill
Maybe. Maybe not. Young people are clever. And they’re WAY more computer savvy than adults.
But it’s worth a try. And states are best suited to try it first, Arizona included.
Besides, it’s a bipartisan issue. Or should be. At least if the two major political parties believe what they say about protecting kids.
State legislatures are ideal test kitchens for proposals like this.
And you know what they say. If you can’t take the heat …
Reach Montini at email@example.com.
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This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Teen social media access is dangerous. Arizona should limit it