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Britt: Kids’ Social Media Act “critical” for protecting children

If it becomes law, the legislation would ban social media use for children under 13.

Sen. Katie Britt during a Senate Banking Committee hearing.

No more Instagram for 12-year-olds. That would be the reality – along with all other forms of social media for all kids under 13 – if a bipartisan bill, the “Protecting Kids on Social Media Act,” co-sponsored by Alabama Sen. Katie Britt, makes its way into law. 

Britt issued a press statement about the bill, joining fellow Sens. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, Chris Murphy, D-Conn., and Tom Cotton, R-Ark., in sponsoring the legislation. All four senators have young children. 

“As a mom, nothing is more important to me than preserving the next generation’s opportunity to live the American Dream. Unfortunately, that Dream is turning into a nightmare for families across our country,” Britt said in a statement. “This bill is a bold, critical step to protect our kids, secure their future, and empower parents.” 

In addition to barring children under 13 from using social media, the legislation would also require parental consent for all kids 13-17 and it would specifically ban companies from targeting children under 18 with algorithms. 

“Just as parents safeguard their kids from threats in the real world, they need the opportunity to protect their children online,” Cotton said. “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.”

The legislation comes in response to growing evidence of the negative impact social media – and Internet overuse, in general – is having on a generation of young people. Instances of depression, anxiety and bullying among children have all increased dramatically over the past two decades, and there is a growing belief among some mental health experts that social media use is a major contributor to the country’s growing mental health issues. 

“The growing evidence is clear: social media is making kids more depressed and wreaking havoc on their mental health,” Schatz said. “While kids are suffering, social media companies are profiting. This needs to stop.

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Congress has called social media executives in for grilling several times over the last few years, but the threats and pleas for the greater good have had little impact on the companies. While most have implemented modest changes and safeguards, they have done very little to address the most harmful and addictive aspects. 

“As a parent of two kids – one a teenager and one about to be a teenager – I see firsthand the damage that social media companies, 100 percent committed to addicting our children to their screens, are doing to our society,” Murphy said. “This is a reality that we don’t have to accept. The alarm bells about social media’s devastating impact on kids have been sounding for a long time, and yet time and time again, these companies have proven they care more about profit than preventing the well-documented harm they cause.”

Josh Moon is an investigative reporter and featured columnist at the Alabama Political Reporter with years of political reporting experience in Alabama. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.

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