A member of the Texas House of Representatives has announced that he will introduce a bill to ban minors from using social networks.
Jared Patterson tweeted this in response to an article published by the Texas Public Policy Foundation think tank, that promotes the idea that social media is harmful for teenagers and should be made inaccessible to them.
Patterson wholeheartedly agreed, claiming that the harm done to young people in Texas by social media is “incredible” and that the legislation would be introduced during the next session of the state House.
The only way to know how old a social site user actually is would be to also impose mandatory age verification or ID checks for adults – another concept that has been cropping up in various countries to much controversy.
The Texas Public Policy Foundation piece, penned by Zach Whiting, declares that social media is undeniably bad, while current consumer protection rules are not enough to protect minors and hold companies behind these networks accountable.
Critics, however, say that despite repeated claims about how harmful these networks are, especially for youths, there has not been data-based confirmation that this is the case. To them, politicians and commentators advancing the notion that social media is conclusively harmful do not base this in fact, but in opinion, and even personal slant.
And in a year of (midterm) US elections, one should never rule out that proposing drastic measures like banning teenagers from all social sites might just be a case of pandering to voters.
When “harm” is mentioned in association to the use of these services by minors, corporate media like to focus on issues like teenagers having poor self-image because of sites like Instagram – most recently this was the case with reporting about the documents leaked by former Facebook employee Frances Haugen.
And yet, there are teens who actually feel better about themselves thanks to social media, critics note, pointing to other parts of the research that get ignored.
Before taking measures like that about to be proposed in Texas, the verdict on whether or not social media does more harm than good seems to require serious study rather than knee-jerk reaction.