The bill is a latest effort in protecting the mental health of the youngsters.
A new bipartisan proposal introduced in the US Senate seeks to set a national age limit for use of social media across the country. The federal bill proposes anyone under the age of 13 from using social media apps like Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and others. The Protecting Kids on Social Media bill also proposes that tech companies need to get parents’ consent before creating accounts for teenagers, as per a report in CNN. The bill seeks to address what experts say a mental health crisis fuelled by social media, the outlet further said.
Under the provisions of the bill, children aged 13 and below would be barred from creating accounts or interact with other users, though they would still be able to view content without logging into an account, according to the draft text of the legislation.
The companies would also be banned from using teens’ personal information to target them with content or advertising. However, some relaxations have been offered, like limited targeted recommendations to teens by relying on other contextual cues.
Speaking about the legislation, Hawaii Democratic Senator Brian Schatz, one of the architects of the federal bill, told reporters that Congress urgently needs to protect kids from social media harms.
“Social media companies have stumbled onto a stubborn, devastating fact. The way to get kids to linger on the platforms and to maximise profit is to upset them – to make them outraged, to make them agitated, to make them scared, to make them vulnerable, to make them feel helpless, anxious and despondent,” Mr Schatz was quoted as saying by CNN.
Mr Schatz added that the bill is a “common sense and bipartisan approach to help stop this suffering” that has resulted from teens using social media.
The other two main sponsors are Senators Chris Murphy and Katie Britt, who said her family “constantly” has conversations about social media, reported NBC News.
Social media companies like Facebook and Instagram require users to be at least 13 before creating an account. TikTok also has a similar policy and offers “a curated, view-only experience for those under age 13 that includes additional safeguards and privacy protections”.
The bill is a latest effort in protecting the mental health of the youngsters. In 2021, 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.
Other studies too have suggested that social media has been linked to a rise in mental health disorders in teens and depression in adults.