Along with time off school and sunshine, this summer could bring big changes to your kids’ social media habits. The most recent version of the Ohio budget, passed by the Senate includes a ban on social media for kids under 16. If this version makes it to the final budget, these changes could occur any time after the budget is signed on June 30th.
Social Media Concerns
In May, the US Surgeon General issued a new advisory concerning children’s social media usage. United States Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy released a new Surgeon General’s Advisory on Social Media and Youth Mental Health – PDF. It stated that, “While social media may offer some benefits, there are ample indicators that social media can also pose a risk of harm to the mental health and well-being of children and adolescents.”
Given that the majority of US children over 10 use social media, AND the growing body of research that details the negative impacts this usage has on them, legislatures in states across the country have been considering bans or limitations on children’s use of social media.
Utah and Arkansas have passed similar social media bans for minors.While California passed a law on social media privacy settings for kids under 18 that prohibits companies from profiling kids or using their data in ways that could be harmful to their mental health.
Ohio’s Focus on Social Media Legislation
According to the Statehouse News Bureau, “State officials backing the ban say it’s about protecting kids’ mental health and shielding them from social media addiction and cyber bullying. Lt. Gov. Jon Husted (R) said social media companies have to come up with a way to obtain verifiable parental consent.” The ban allows the attorney general to bring civil lawsuits against social media and gaming platforms that don’t comply.
Lt. Governor John Husted told the Columbus Dispatch the proposal is part of a larger effort by DeWine’s administration to improve the well-being of children. He hopes these companies will come to the table to hash out details and determine how the vetting process would work in practice.
Ultimately, Husted hopes that state legislation can lead to changes in the federal law. “If you’re not going to get it done, then we’re going to lead and we’re going to get it done state by state until we force the issue to occur,” Husted said. “Or hopefully the companies are going to go begging the federal government to fix this and give them one uniform standard,” he told the Statehouse Bureau.
Social media companies have said they have safeguards already in place, and suggest bans would require parents and kids to share drivers’ licenses, birthdates and other personal information for verification with those companies, which could be a problem for some people. However, lawmakers do not believe that these safeguards are sufficient.
The budget is currently being revised and worked on in committee. The final budget, and possible resulting legislation, will be signed by Governor Dewine on June 30th.