Should the Government Regulate Social Media Sites to Protect Kids and Teens?
Social media use only continues to increase as more platforms debut. In 2022, a Common Sense Media report found 84% of teens used social media, with only 34% reporting that they enjoy social media “a lot.” Social media use was also increasing among tweens, a group that is ostensibly barred from using the platforms. For more on social media, explore the ProCon debate.
“The United States is experiencing an unprecedented youth mental health crisis. More than half of parents express concern over their children’s mental well-being, and there is now undeniable evidence that social media and other online platforms have contributed to our youth mental health crisis. The number of children and adolescents with anxiety and depression has risen nearly 30% in recent years. Between 2011 and 2021, the number of teens and young adults with depression more than doubled. According to the CDC, in 2021, 42% of high school students reported experiencing persistent feelings of sadness, including 57% of girls and 69% of LGBQ+ students, and nearly 1 in 3 high school girls reported having seriously considered suicide. Children are subject to the platforms’ excessive data collection, which they use to deliver sensational and harmful content and troves of paid advertising. And online platforms often use manipulative design techniques embedded in their products to promote addictive and compulsive use by young people to generate more revenue. Social media use in schools is affecting students’ mental health and disrupting learning. Advances in artificial intelligence could make these harms far worse, especially if not developed and deployed responsibly. Far too often, online platforms do not protect minors who use their products and services, even when alerted to the abuses experienced online….
The Department of Health and Human Services, through the Assistant Secretary of Substance Use and Mental Health Administration and in close partnership with the Department of Commerce, will lead an interagency Task Force on Kids Online Health & Safety to advance the health, safety and privacy of minors online with particular attention to preventing and mitigating the adverse health effects of online platforms on minors. It will identify current and emerging risks of harm to minors associated with online platforms, as well as potential health benefits of using online platforms. It will recommend measures and methods for assessing, preventing, and mitigating such harms; develop a research agenda regarding online harms and health benefits to minors; and recommend best practices and technical standards for transparency reports and audits related to online harms to the privacy, health, and safety on children and teenagers.”-
White House, “Fact Sheet: Biden-Harris Administration Announces Actions to Protect Youth Mental Health, Safety & Privacy Online,” whitehouse.gov, May 23, 2023
“Today, Governor Ron DeSantis announced his proposal to protect Floridians’ digital rights and privacy from Big Tech companies by creating a Digital Bill of Rights that focuses on protecting Floridians’ privacy, protecting minors from online harms, and eliminating unfair censorship. The proposal also bans the use of TikTok and other social media platforms with ties to China from all state government devices, and through internet services at colleges, universities, and public schools, and prohibits state and local government employees from coordinating with Big Tech companies to censor protected speech.”-
Ron DeSantis, “Governor Ron DeSantis Introduces Groundbreaking Legislation to Protect the Digital Rights and Privacy of All Floridians,” flgov.com, Feb. 15, 2023
“This isn’t a Republican point or a Democrat point. But if you’re 16 years old or under, you should not be using an addictive social media product, period. This is something that we can both agree on. And we can revive both the mental health of this country while stopping the fentanyl epidemic.” Editors’ Note: Journalist Julia Shapero provides context: “The conservative entrepreneur criticized social media platforms while addressing concerns about fentanyl smuggling across the U.S.-Mexico border. He pointed to the story of an Iowa teenager who died after purchasing percocet on Snapchat that was laced with fentanyl.”-
Julia Shapero, “Ramaswamy: Kids 16 and Under Shouldn’t Use ‘Addictive’ Social Media,” thehill.com, Sep. 27, 2023