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Ray Bogan

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Senators introduce bipartisan bill to ban kids under 13 from social media

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Ray Bogan

Political Correspondent

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Four bipartisan senators, two Republicans and two Democrats, introduced a bill to prohibit kids under the age of 13 from using social media. If passed, the Protecting Kids on Social Media Act would also require a parent or guardian’s permission for kids 13-17. 

The senators contend that this bill is necessary to address extraordinary mental health challenges in teens. CDC studies show 57% of high school girls and 29% of high school boys feel persistently sad or hopeless, and 22% have seriously considered suicide. 

“Social media companies have stumbled on to a stubborn, devastating fact: the way to get kids to linger on the platforms and to maximize profit is to upset them, to make them outraged, to make them agitated,” Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, said.

“I mean, think back to your high school years, think back to junior, I think about middle school. Think about the things that people said to you, or they said to somebody else about you. Imagine if those things were memorialized forever online,” Sen. Katie Britt, R-Ala., said. 

In addition to age restrictions, the bill would prohibit social media companies from recommending content to minors through an algorithm. So if a family member posts a boring picture of their pet, teens actually see that picture, instead of being inundated with content the company’s algorithm determined would keep them scrolling for hours. 

“I find that this is one of the most apolitical conversations I have in Connecticut. I see very little, if any disagreement between my constituents on the Right and on the Left when it comes to the agony the parents are going through today as they try to figure out what their kids are seeing,” Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., said.  

The same can be said on Capitol Hill. There are numerous, bipartisan proposals to address Big Tech’s influence on teens including the Kids Online Safety Act – a joint effort by Sens. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., and Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn. 

Blumenthal expressed concern about provisions in the Protecting Kids on Social Media Act, including rigorous age verification. The bill would create a federal government pilot program for age verification.

“I have some concerns about an age identification system that would create a national database with personal information about kids in the hands of Big Tech, potentially leading to misuse or exploitation,” Blumenthal told reporters. 

Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., addressed that and said the bill prohibits storing the information or using it for any other reason other than proving the companies properly verified ages. 

“We’re only talking about two pieces of data here. The first is your birth date, which many people post on social media anyway. And the second, for children 13 to 17, is your parent-child relationship that is already held by numerous government agencies at the federal, the state, and the local level,” Cotton said.  

Cotton also said there are multiple third-party vendors that already verify age safely and reliably for things like online gambling.

The provisions in the bill would be enforced by the Federal Trade Commission and by state attorneys general.

There’s a big appetite for reigning in Big Tech and protecting teens online in Washington. Congress wants to pass a bipartisan bill on the matter this year.

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Four bipartisan Senators, two Republicans and two Democrats, introduced a bill to prohibit kids under the age of 13 from using social media. If passed, the Protecting Kids on Social Media Act would also require a parent or guardian’s permission for kids 13-17. The Senators say this bill is necessary to address extraordinary mental health challenges in teens. CDC studies show ⅔ of high school girls and ⅓ of high school boys feel persistently sad or hopeless and 22% have seriously considered suicide. 

 

Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hi.: “social media companies have stumbled on to a stubborn, devastating fact, the way to get kids to linger on the platforms and to maximize profit is to upset them, to make them outrage to make them agitated.”

 

Sen. Katie Britt, R-Al: “I mean, think back to your high school years, think back to junior, I think about middle school. Think about the things that people said to you. Or they said to somebody else about you. Imagine if those things were memorialized forever online.” 

 

In addition to age restrictions, the bill would prohibit social media companies from recommending content to minors through an algorithm. 

So if a family member posts a boring picture of their pet, teens actually see that picture, instead of being inundated with content the company’s algorithm determined would keep them scrolling for hours. 

 

Sen. Chris Murphy, D-CT,: “I find that this is one of the most apolitical conversations I have in Connecticut, I see very little, if any disagreement between my constituents on the right and on the left when it comes to the agony the parents are going through today as they try to figure out what their kids are seeing.” 

 

The same can be said on Capitol Hill. There are numerous bipartisan proposals to address big tech’s influence on teens including the Kids Online Safety Act – a joint effort by Democrat Richard Blumenthal and Republican Marsha Blackburn. 

 

Senator Blumenthal expressed concern about provisions in the Protecting Kids on Social Media Act, including rigorous age verification. 

 

Sen. Richard Blumenthal D-Ct: “I have some concerns about an age identification system that would create a national database with personal information about kids in the hands of big tech, potentially leading to misuse or exploitation. “

 

But Senator Cotton dismissed those concerns, saying their bill prohibits storing the information or using it for any other reason other than proving they properly verified ages. 

 

Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ar: “We’re only talking about two pieces of data here. The first is your birth date, which many people post on social media anyway. And the second for children 13 to 17 is your parent child relationship that is already held by numerous government agencies at the federal, the state, and the local level.” 

 

There’s a big appetite for reigning in big tech and protecting teens online here in Washington. Congress wants to pass a signature bipartisan bill on the matter this year. Straight from DC, I’m Ray Bogan