Mayfield: New laws regulating social media are needed now
Jun 12, 2023, 8:06 AM | Updated: 9:43 am
(Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images)
Montana lawmakers just banned TikTok. In Utah, there are strict new laws governing how and when kids under 18 can even use social media. Louisiana is going further by also allowing parents to cancel terms of service contracts of their children’s existing accounts.
Dozens of other states have begun moving in this direction just this year.
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I agree wholeheartedly with this move to restrict the internet, and especially social media access, for our kids. We are in the midst of a teen and tween mental health crisis worsening by the hour. The U.S. Surgeon General has gone so far as to issue a warning about the deadly consequences kids can face.
And it’s not just bullying, eating disorders, sexual and violent content, but vile predators are everywhere. Last week, the Wall Street Journal uncovered a vast pedophile ring operating in the open on Instagram that the company was doing nothing about.
And that’s the issue, companies are doing nothing about too much of this. The self-policing they promised us years ago and continue to promise isn’t working.
And if I were being cynical, I would also point out that today there is just too much money to be made on teens by those very companies.
That’s when government should step in. Lawmakers should set legal limits backed by civil and even criminal penalties that hurt if companies violate them.
You can say parents should step in and set limits, but think about how hard that is when seemingly everyone else is either letting kids on social media or not catching them already being there.
Laws give parents support to say, “It’s illegal for you to do this,” and it gives teens the same support to tell themselves and their friends, “No, it’s illegal.”
There is something to be said for young people who find community, support, and acceptance on social media. Specifically, studies show LGBTQ+ teens often rely on social media for a community when they aren’t allowed it elsewhere. That can and does save lives.
As we debate laws to protect kids — something we should do both here in Washington and in the other Washington — we need to be nuanced and fact-based.
This morning the Wall Street Journal proposed a social media ban for kids under 16, and I think that sounds fair and smart. It balances the possible support some will find with the possible harm others may face. It gives our kids and their brains a few more years to grow and develop.
This is an issue that Republicans and Democrats are grappling with that families in Red and Blue states are wrestling with, and it has the potential to be bipartisan if we all make a good-faith effort to find common ground and act now.
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