WASHINGTON — A bipartisan group of senators introduced legislation Wednesday that aims to protect children from the harmful effects of social media use.
He Law for the protection of children in social networks it would set a minimum age of 13 to use social media apps, such as Instagram, Facebook and TikTok, and would require parental consent for 13- to 17-year-olds.
US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy said earlier this year that 13 is too young to join social media.
The bill would prohibit social media companies from recommending content using algorithms to users under the age of 18. It would also require companies to employ age verification measures and instructs them to pilot a government-provided age verification system that platforms could use.
Under the measure, the Federal Trade Commission and state attorneys general would have authority to enforce the bill’s provisions.
«Big technology has exposed our children to dangerous content and has disturbed people,» one of the bill’s sponsors, Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Arkansas, said at a news conference. «Moms and dads have felt powerless as their children suffer, sometimes leading to devastating tragedies.»
Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii., another lead sponsor, said the bill is a «common-sense, bipartisan approach to help stop this suffering» that has resulted from teens’ use of social media. .
«By instituting these simple and direct guidelines, we will be able to give the next generation of children what every parent wants for their child, which is the opportunity to grow up happy and healthy,» he said.
The other two main sponsors are Sens. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., and Katie Britt, R-Ala., who said their family «constantly» has conversations about social media.
«We have to take a step back, and as parents say, how can we protect our children, teach them how to use this tool, use it for good, and be intentional in doing so?» she said.
Some of the most popular social networking applications such as Facebook and instagram require users creating accounts to be at least 13 years old. While TikTok requires users who post content to be at least 13 years old, also offers «a curated, read-only experience for ages 13 and under that includes additional safeguards and privacy protections.» The company says it partners with Common Sense Networks, a media company whose mission is to create media that is safe for children and families, to ensure content for that age group is appropriate and safe.
Lawmakers recently questioned TikTok’s chief executive in a congressional hearing about the company’s age requirements and the mechanisms in place to protect children from dangerous content.
In a press release on Wednesday, the group of senators pointed to mental health data among young people and said there is a clear link to social media. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Youth Risk Behavior Survey found that 57% of high school girls and 29% of high school boys felt persistently sad or hopeless in 2021, and 22 % of all high school students reported that they had seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year, lawmakers said.
Other studies in recent years have suggested that social media has been linked to an increase in mental health disorders in adolescents and depression in adults.
In February, Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., introduced a bill that would set the minimum age limit for using social media at 16. And recently, Utah Gov. Spencer Cox, a Republican, signed two pieces of sweeping social media regulation into law. in law that requires social media companies to obtain parental consent for minors to use their services.
Garrett Haake, frank thorp and Monica Dunn contributed.