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State of Play | Tackling Social Media Regulations for Children

With increasing scrutiny on children’s mental health and privacy, state lawmakers are debating new regulations for social media use by minors.

By State Legislatures News Staff  |  May 23, 2024

As concerns surrounding mental health, privacy and parental consent continue to grow, state legislatures are exploring new regulations to protect children on social media.

In this month’s installment of “State of Play,” a bipartisan video series created by A Starting Point and NCSL, Colorado Sen. Chris Hansen (D) and Utah Rep. Jordan Teuscher (R) discuss how state governments are working to balance parents’ and children’s rights with government regulation regarding kids and social media. They explore ways state governments can enhance privacy protections for minors on social media, whether states should pass laws specifically addressing cyberbullying and more.

“The state's role is to help facilitate and help parents and kids deal with this new emerging technology that no one really knew how to deal with in the past,” Teuscher says.

It’s an area of concern across the country. A 2023 report from Pew found that about 9 in 10 Americans are concerned that social media sites and apps know kids’ personal information. The same report found that 91% of U.S. adults felt social media companies had a great deal or some responsibility for protecting children’s online privacy.

Hansen says approaching the topic is a difficult balance, and Colorado is focusing its legislative efforts on child safety.

“It’s also personal to me because I’ve got two teenage boys at home,” he says. “So, this is not some distant thing. This is something that we’ve been struggling with as parents for years, and parents all over the country are struggling with this. What’s the right balance for access and what technology and at what age should kids get technology? These are really tough questions for parents to answer, and I just think we need more systemic effort, cooperating with the companies to make online safer for our kids.”

And while cyberbullying on social media is a real concern, Teuscher says it’s “the algorithms themselves that are causing the addictive nature to the teens on social media.” Those are causing as much if not more harm than messages directed at particular individuals, he adds.

The U.S. needs to do better, Hansen says.

“Federal action is elusive right now,” he says. “I don’t see Congress getting much done in the last few years, and so I think it’s up to the states to push forward on this area.”

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