Texas Bill May Ban Social Media for Minors


Phone with social media apps displayed | Image by Shutterstock

Texans may soon have to wait until the age of 18 to make a social media account.

North Texas State Rep. Jared Patterson (R-Frisco) submitted a new bill that would require social media users to be of legal age to create an account.

Patterson said he believes social media is harmful to children. He likened its use to cigarette smoking before 1964, according to Fox 4.

“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,” Patterson said in a statement.

Currently, Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram require users to be at least 13 years old to join but enforce no methods of requiring proof of age.

The proposed bill, H.B. No. 896, would force users to verify their age with a photo ID and a second form of identification. It would also allow parents to request the social media giants remove their kids’ existing accounts, Fox 4 said.

The bill would also give the Texas attorney general’s office the power to prosecute any violations, according to The Dallas Morning News.

The CEO of the Texas Public Policy Foundation commended the new bill, according to Fox 4 News.

“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,” said Greg Sindelar, CEO of the Texas Public Policy Foundation.

“We are tremendously grateful for Rep. Jared Patterson’s leadership on keeping this precious population safe,” Sindelar said. “TPPF is fully supportive of prohibiting social media access to minors to prevent the perpetual harms of social media from devastating the next generation of Texans.”

Analyst Scott Babwah Brennen noted that the bill does not expressly identify what apps would be restricted for use by minors and said he would be surprised if the bill passed as written, according to Gizmodo.

Brennen is the head of online expression policy at the University of North Carolina. He anticipates “pretty significant pushback from the tech community” and explained that the bill doesn’t define what is meant by “social media.”

Furthermore, Brennen said, Patterson’s bill does not offer “any limitations on which apps or companies might be included, and so would likely apply very widely.”

If passed, the “user age limitation” subchapter amendment would go into effect on September 1, 2023.

Whether or not this particular bill passes, Texas will likely continue to put pressure on the social media industry, as this was not the only attempt to crack down on its adverse effects in the past week.

On December 7, Governor Greg Abbott ordered state agencies to ban the use of TikTok on government-issued devices due to concerns the Chinese government could gain access to U.S. information, as The Dallas Express has previously reported.

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