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Bipartisan Senate Bill Seeks to Keep Kids Off Social Media

'Parents know there’s no good reason for a child to be doom-scrolling or binge-watching reels that glorify unhealthy lifestyles,' Cruz said.

Bipartisan Senate Bill Seeks to Keep Kids Off Social Media

Ted Cruz, a Republican, and Sen. Brian Schatz, a Democrat, have introduced a bipartisan bill to keep kids off social media.

The "Kids Off Social Media Act" will ban children under 13 from using social media platforms, prohibit social media companies from programming algorithms for teens younger than 17 and allow schools to block access to social media.

“There is no public policy justification; there is no constitutional reason; there is no good reason for a nine year old to be on Instagram or TikTok. There just isn’t,” Schatz told the Washington Post. “I have met zero parents who oppose this legislation: I have not in my regular life, in my political life, and everywhere in between.”

In a press release about the proposed legislation, Cruz's office said, "Growing evidence shows that social media is having a negative effect on teens — leading to depression, anxiety, self-harm and dangerous behavior — and that social media companies have done little to nothing to prevent it."

“It’s really hard to be a teenager today. And it is incredibly frightening to be a parent today,” Cruz told The Post. “This legislation is trying to take a meaningful step to protect our kids.”

Schatz and Cruz may have little in common politically, but they are both parents to pre-teens.

“Every parent with a young child or a teenage either worries about, or knows first-hand, the real harms and dangers of addicted and anxiety-inducing social media,” Cruz said in a statement. “Parents know there’s no good reason for a child to be doom-scrolling or binge-watching reels that glorify unhealthy lifestyles.”

The Post reports, "Advocates hope it is packaged alongside two other online safety bills for children: The Kids Online Safety Act (KOSA), which places the onus on social media companies to ensure young people aren’t harmed for using their sites and institutes new parental controls on social media apps, and the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, known as COPPA 2.0, which would ban targeted advertising to children and teens, and prohibit companies from collecting the personal information of users ages 13 to 16."

Sens. Chris Murphy (D.), Katie Britt (R), Peter Welch (D), Ted Budd (R), John Fetterman (D), Angus King (I), and Mark Warner (D) are co-sponsors of the bill.

In March, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed a bill banning children under 14 from using social media.

Under HB 3, children under 14 are prohibited from having social media accounts, but 14- and 15-year-olds can join with parental consent.

Reuters explains, "The measure requires social media platforms to terminate the accounts of people under 14 and those of people under 16 who do not have parental consent. It requires them to use a third-party verification system to screen out those who are underage."

Social media companies must delete all data and information associated with existing accounts for children under 14. Those who fail to do so can now be subject to lawsuits filed by the parents.

"The bill does not name any specific social media platforms, but states that its targets are social media sites that promote 'infinite scrolling,' display reaction metrics such as likes, feature auto-play videos and have live-streaming and push notifications," the report added. "It would exempt websites and apps whose main function is email, messaging or texting between a particular sender and recipient."

Additionally, the law requires pornographic or sexually explicit websites to use age verification to prevent minors from accessing sites that are inappropriate for children.

The law will go into effect on January 1, 2025.

In a press release about the legislation, Gov. DeSantis said, "Social media harms children in a variety of ways."

“HB 3 gives parents a greater ability to protect their children. Thank you to Speaker Renner for delivering this landmark legislation,” the governor added.

“The internet has become a dark alley for our children where predators target them and dangerous social media leads to higher rates of depression, self-harm, and even suicide,” said Florida House Speaker Paul Renner. “I am proud of the work of all our bill sponsors, Representatives Tyler Sirois, Fiona McFarland, Michele Rayner, Chase Tramont, and Toby Overdorf for delivering a legislative framework that prioritizes keeping our children safe. Thanks to Governor DeSantis’ signature, Florida leads the way in protecting children online as states across the country fight to address these dangers.”

Reuters noted, "In March 2023 Utah became the first U.S. state to adopt laws regulating children's access to social media, followed by others including Arkansas, Louisiana, Ohio and Texas, according to a legislative analysis prepared for the Florida bill. The analysis said numerous other states were contemplating similar regulations."

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