Bipartisan senators unveil bill limiting kids’ social media use

Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) are leading a group of bipartisan senators reintroducing a bill that would limit kids’ social media use by setting a minimum age for users and restricting access to the sites in schools.

Schatz originally introduced a version of the legislation, called the Kids Off Social Media Act, in spring 2023. It would set the minimum age for online social media users to 13 years old, and prevent platforms from “feeding algorithmically-boosted content” to users under 17.

Users under 18 must have parental permission to use apps like TikTok, Instagram and Snapchat under the bill.

“There is no good reason for a nine-year-old to be on Instagram or TikTok. There just isn’t. The growing evidence is clear: social media is making kids more depressed, more anxious, and more suicidal,” Schatz said in a statement. “This is an urgent health crisis, and Congress must act.”

The bill will include components of legislation Cruz previously introduced, called the Eyes on the Board Act, which would block social media apps and websites on public school computers and networks, just as they currently block access to pornography and obscenity.

“Every parent with a young child or a teenage either worries about, or knows first-hand, the real harms and dangers of addicted and anxiety-inducing social media,” Cruz said in a statement. “Parents know there’s no good reason for a child to be doom-scrolling or binge-watching reels that glorify unhealthy lifestyles.”

The legislation is co-sponsored by Sens. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Katie Britt (R-Ala.), Peter Welch (D-Vt.), Ted Budd (R-N.C.), John Fetterman (D-Pa.), Angus King (I-Maine) and Mark Warner (D-Va.).

Schatz’s past bill faced some opposition, but its sponsors hail it as a way for parents to regain control over what their kids are seeing online and say it would prevent platforms from using minors’ data to promote potentially harmful content.

Advocacy groups said last year that they support some of the legislation, but not the parental consent feature. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), one of the Senate’s most prominent advocates for kids’ online safety protections, was concerned that the bill shifts the responsibility of protecting kids from the tech companies to the parents.

LGTBQ advocates argued that LGTBQ kids who live in less supportive households would lose out on having internet access limited at school.

Groups have instead rallied around other online safety proposals led by Blumenthal and Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.). Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) also announced his support for the proposed Kids Online Safety Act in February.

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