April 26 (UPI) — A U.S. Senate bipartisan bill would ban kids younger than 13 from social media, and it would require parental consent for 13- to 17-year-olds to have social media accounts.
Sponsors of the Protecting Kids On Social Media Act cite what they say are growing mental health problems facing today’s teens as the main reason for creating the legislation.
If passed into law, the Federal Trade Commission would be empowered to fine social media companies millions of dollars.
However, the bill also exempts online platforms that provide video games, online payments, digital newsletters, teleconference providers, and other online sites.
The bill also creates a pilot program for providing a secure digital identification credential to citizens and lawful U.S. residents at no cost to the individual.
Under the bill, social media companies would have two years from the date the bill is enacted to verify the ages of account holders.
The bill’s introductory paragraph states its purpose is “to require that social media platforms verify the age of their users, prohibit the use of algorithmic recommendation systems on individuals under age 18, require parental or guardian consent for social media users under age 18, and prohibit users who are under age 13 from accessing social media platforms.”
The bill doesn’t ban minors from viewing social media content, “as long as such viewing does not involve logging in or interacting with the content or other users.”
The bill’s sponsors are Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., and Sen. Katie Britt, R-Ala.
“From bullying and sex trafficking to addiction and explicit content, social media companies subject children and teens to a wide variety of content that can hurt them, emotionally and physically,” said Cotton in a statement. “Just as parents safeguard their kids from threats in the real world, they need the opportunity to protect their children online.”
Schatz said that while social media companies are profiting, kids are suffering and it has to stop. He said the growing evidence is clear that social media “is making kids more depressed and wreaking havoc on their mental health.”
“Our bill will help us stop the growing social media health crisis among kids by setting a minimum age and preventing companies from using algorithms to automatically feed them addictive content based on their personal information,” Schatz said in a statement.
The bill would limit tech companies from using data from teens to target them with advertising.
“As a parent of two kids — one a teenager and one about to be a teenager — I see firsthand the damage that social media companies, 100% committed to addicting our children to their screens, are doing to our society,” Murphy said in a statement. “This is a reality that we don’t have to accept … None of this is out of Congress’ control and this bipartisan legislation would take important steps to protect kids and hold social media companies accountable.”