Warner introduces ‘Kids Off Social Media Act’

Published 8:20 am Saturday, May 25, 2024

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Virginia Sen. Mark Warner wants to change how much children are on social media. To do that, he and a group of Democrats and Republicans in the Senate introduced the Kids Off Social Media Act this week.

The legislation would set a minimum age of 13 to use social media platforms and prevent social media companies from feeding algorithmically-targeted content to users under the age of 17. Joining Sens. Warner and Ted Cruz in introduction are U.S. Sens. Chris Murphy (D-CT), Katie Britt (R-AL), Peter Welch (D-VT), Ted Budd (R-NC), John Fetterman (D-PA), and Angus King (I-ME).

The Kids Off Social Media Act aims to address concerns regarding the mental health crisis of children and teens in relation to their use of social media. No age demographic is more affected by the ongoing mental health crisis in the United States than kids, especially young girls. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Youth Risk Behavior Survey found that 57 percent of high school girls and 29 percent of high school boys felt persistently sad or hopeless in 2021, with 22 percent of all high school students — and nearly a third of high school girls — reporting they had seriously considered attempting suicide in the preceding year.

Studies have shown a strong relationship between social media use and poor mental health, especially among children. From 2019 to 2021, overall screen use among teens and tweens (ages 8 to 12) increased by 17 percent, with tweens using screens for five hours and 33 minutes per day and teens using screens for eight hours and 39 minutes. Based on the clear and growing evidence, the U.S. Surgeon General issued an advisory last year, calling for new policies to set and enforce age minimums and highlighting the importance of limiting the use of features, like algorithms, that attempt to maximize time, attention, and engagement.


“Parents across the country are struggling to protect their kids from the harmful effects of too much social media, and studies show that today’s unregulated social media landscape has fostered a toxic environment for young people, promoting bullying, eating disorders, and mental health struggles unchecked,” said Sen. Warner.

Specifically, the Kids Off Social Media Act would:

• Prohibit children under the age of 13 from creating or maintaining social media accounts, consistent with the current practices of major social media companies;

• Prohibit social media companies from pushing targeted content using algorithms to users under the age of 17;

• Provide the FTC and state attorneys general authority to enforce the provisions of the bill; and

• Follow existing CIPA framework to require schools to block and filter social media on their federally funded networks, which many schools already do.

“Our nation is facing a severe crisis in children’s mental health,” said Dr. Regena Spratling, President of the National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners. “Every day pediatric nurse practitioners (PNPs) and other advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) focused on children’s health see the serious impact that social media can have on our young people’s well-being. The ‘Kids Off Social Media Act’ will help to provide parents the tools they need to safeguard their children from threats in the digital world.”

The Kids Off Social Media Act is supported by the American Counseling Association, KidsToo, National Association of Social Workers, National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners, Tyler Clementi Foundation, National Council for Mental Wellbeing, Count on Mothers, Parents Television and Media Council, Parents Who Fight, Public Citizen, National Federation of Families, National Organization for Women, National Association of School Nurses, National League for Nursing, and American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry.