The Protecting Kids on Social Media Act would set a minimum age of 13 to use social media apps and would require parental consent for 13 through 17 year-olds.
The bill, co-authored by US Senator Brian Schatz (D-Hawaiʻi) would also prevent social media companies from feeding content using personalized algorithms to users under the age of 18.
“The mental health crisis among kids is real, and as the evidence on social media’s harmful role in that continues to grow, so does the urgent need for action. This isn’t a partisan issue. It’s about protecting kids, and I’m proud we continue to gain broad, bipartisan support,” said Senator Schatz.
The bipartisan bill was also authored by fellow Senators Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), and Katie Britt (R-Ala.). Others pledged their support including: US Senators Peter Welch (D-Vt.), Markwayne Mullin (R-Okla.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Pete Ricketts (R-Neb.), John Fetterman (D-Pa.), and Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.).
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, with 22% of all high school students reporting they had seriously considered attempting suicide in the preceding year.
One area that requires immediate action is the “clear link between social media and poor mental health,” according to a news release from the senator. “Social media companies have known about this link for years, and independent research has confirmed it: social media usage is a cause for the mental health epidemic.”
From 2019 to 2021, overall screen use among teens and tweens (ages 8 to 12) increased by 17%, with tweens using screens for five hours and 33 minutes per day and teens using screens for eight hours and 39 minutes. Studies have shown a strong relationship between social media use and poor mental health, especially among children, according to the news release.
With this clear evidence, the US Surgeon General has warned that 13 is too early for social media use and suggested that 16, 17, or 18 may be as well. In a new advisory issued in May, the Surgeon General underscored the harmful risks social media poses to kids and called on policymakers to take steps, like those in the Protecting Kids on Social Media Act, to strengthen protections for children.
The full bill text is available here.