Don't risk freedom, privacy to protect kids from social media
In their zeal to protect children from social media, Utah legislators are debating legislation that would usurp parents' rights and invade family privacy, writes Larry Magid. Utah Senate Bill 152 and House Bill 311 would set a bad precedent and make it harder to pass sensible federal regulation, he argues.
As CEO of ConnectSafely.org, Magid cares about protecting kids, but this isn't the way, he writes.
SB 152 would require everyone to "submit government-issued ID to sign up for a social media account," he writes. Parents would have to sign up their children. However, children under 16 would be banned, even if parents want them online, and minors couldn't be online after 10:30 p.m. or before 6:30 a.m., whatever their parents' wishes.
Requiring parental permission for teens, especially 16- and 17-year-olds, would exclude many young people from exploring religious, political or sexual-orientation issues, writes Magid. He envisions a 17-year-old barred from Republican or Christian sites because the parents disapprove.
Some teens go online to get diet tips from fellow anorexics, say nasty things about the girls who don't want to have sex with them or revel in the latest left-wing, right-wing or wingless conspiracy. There's a lot of crazy out there. I have a hard time envisioning how to regulate that.
As Magid writes, social media is, at least in part, a free speech issue.
Lawsuits charging social media is harming children could be the next big thing, writes Thomas F. Harrison on Courthouse News Service. The case brought by Seattle Public Schools using a “public nuisance” theory "has the potential" to lead to multi-billion-dollar settlements, like suits against opioid makers, the tobacco industry and vape-maker Juul, writes Harrison.
Seattle’s school district claims that Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube, TikTok and Google deliberately addict children to their platforms and serve up inappropriate content that encourages anxiety, depression, eating disorders, cyberbullying and self-harm.
This has led to “drastic increases in suicides, attempted suicides, and mental-health related ER visits” by schoolchildren, as well as fights, classroom disruptions, absenteeism and tardiness, the district claims.
The district has been forced to spend large amounts of money to meet the growing demand for mental health services, according to the complaint.