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Sen. Cotton joins bi-partisan legislation for social media protection for children

A group of U.S. senators, including Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton, introduced bipartisan legislation to protect kids from the harmful impacts of social media.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — A group of U.S. senators introduced new legislation in April to help protect children from the "harmful" effects of social media.

Senator Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas), Senator Brian Schatz (D-Hawai‘i), Senator Chris Murphy (D-Connecticut), and Senator Katie Britt (R-Alabama) announced that the Protecting Kids on Social Media Act would set new age requirements.

According to the proposal, it would require users to be a minimum of 13 years old to be able to use social media apps and require parental consent for 13 through 17-year-olds to create an account.

It would also prohibit social media companies from recommending content using algorithms to users under the age of 18.

Additionally, the bill would create a pilot project for a government-provided age verification system that platforms can choose to use— while prohibiting companies from using age verification information for any other purpose.

Meanwhile, children under the age of 13 would be prohibited from using social media.

The Protecting Kids on Social Media Act would provide the FTC and state attorneys general authority to enforce the provisions of the bill.

"Just as parents safeguard their kids from threats in the real world, they need the opportunity to protect their children online," Cotton said. "By setting an age limit of 13—and requiring parental consent until age 18—our bill will put parents back in control of what their kids experience online."

The decision came based on statistics linking social media to poor mental health, especially in teens and young adults.

In a survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Youth Risk Behavior, it showed that 57% of high school girls and 29% of high school boys felt persistently sad or hopeless in 2021, with 22% of all high school students reporting they had seriously considered suicide in the previous year. 

Between 2019 and 2021, overall screen use among teens and tweens (ages 8 to 12) increased by 17%, 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 findings, the U.S. Surgeon General has warned that 13 is too early for social media use and suggested that even 16, 17, or 18 may be as well.

The legislation has been referred to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation.

In April 2023, Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders signed legislation that requires social media companies to perform age verification checks on new users and require minors to get parental permission to create new accounts.

To read the full bill, please click here.

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