The Texas state legislature is considering a bill that would prohibit minors under 18 years old from using social media in an effort to combat childhood depression and other ill effects of some forms of internet use. The legislation has been introduced as Gov. Greg Abbott (R) has announced he is using an executive order to ban the use of social media platform TikTok on state-issued electronic devices.
“Social media is the pre-1964 cigarette. Once thought to be perfectly safe for users, social media access to minors has led to remarkable rises in self-harm, suicide, and mental health issues.” stated Rep. Patterson.
— Rep. Jared Patterson (@JaredLPatterson) December 7, 2022
State Rep. Jared Patterson (R) has introduced the bill requiring social media users to be adults before signing into an account. His district includes the city of Frisco in north Texas.
Patterson tweeted on Wednesday that “social media is the pre-1964 cigarette.” He added, “Once thought to be perfectly safe for users, social media access to minors has led to remarkable rises in self-harm, suicide, and mental health issues.”
Texas Public Policy Foundation CEO Greg Sindelar expressed his organization’s support for the measure. He said, “The harms social media poses to minors are demonstrable not just in the internal research from the very social media companies that create these addictive products, but in the skyrocketing depression, anxiety, and even suicide rates we are seeing afflict children.”
Enforcement of the ban would rely on a requirement that social media applications and websites verify every user’s age with government-issued photo identification. The bill also has a provision that authorizes parents to require accounts opened by their children to be deleted.
In the absence of legal age requirements, most social media platforms require users to be at least 13 years old. However, none appear to take steps to verify any proof of age when accounts are set up.
Abbott’s executive order issued this week makes Texas the third state to ban TikTok from government devices, joining South Dakota and Maryland. Those states have cited public security concerns about the platform which China-based ByteDance owns. That firm is under the control of the Chinese Communist Party. It is obligated under Chinese law to share the data it sweeps up from American users.