NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — The focus of a new bipartisan bill unveiled Wednesday is to protect kids from the dangers of social media.
The Protecting Kids on Social Media Act would set a minimum age of 13 to use social media apps like Instagram, Facebook and TikTok and require parental consent for 13- to 17-year-olds.
U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) created the bill with three other U.S. Senators — Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) and Katie Britt (R-Alabama).
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Youth Risk Behavior Survey found that 57% of high school girls and 29% of high school boys felt persistently sad or hopeless in 2021, with 22% of all high school students reporting they had seriously considered attempting suicide in the preceding year.
“We are now more than a decade into the largest epidemic of teen mental illness on record, and we do know what’s driving it,” Schatz said.
If passed, it would be the first time a national age minimum would be set for social media users and require big tech companies to get parental consent.
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“Parents want and deserve tools to help keep their kids safe online,” Murphy said.
At Wednesday’s news conference, Murphy said, “I have seen both of my children be subjected to these algorithms that are intent on addicting them to their screens and pulling them away from much more fulfilling and meaningful connection.”
Dr. Jennifer Schwab practices at Rocky Hill Pediatrics, which serves more than 5,000 young patients in the area. She says regulating social media is a step in the right direction regarding mental health.
“We know that these social media platforms actually created algorithms to give them more of what they want to draw them in with this dopamine hit – very similar to adults with alcohol or nicotine, “Schwab told News 8.
As a mother of two, Lisa Bok of Hamden is open to creating a minimum age for social media users.
“For the younger kids, I think it [social media] should be banned because when they are young, they need to be outside in nature, playing and socializing with their peers,” Bok said.
Other Hamden parents, like Ellie Hong, agree. She is concerned about what kids are exposed to.
“I am worried about TikTok and a lot of things,” Hong said. “Even when I am just reading or watching it, I think it is not appropriate.”
As the details of this proposal are still being worked out, the goal of creating social media safeguards is simple.
“This bill gives parents the ability to decide with their children when is the right time to step into this world,” Murphy said.
Lawmakers said they have not yet presented the bill to major social media companies and are anticipating pushback.