WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senators Peter Welch (D-Vt.), Markwayne Mullin (R-Okla.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Pete Ricketts (R-Neb.), John Fetterman (D-Pa.), and Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.) announced their support for the Protecting Kids on Social Media Act. The bipartisan bill, authored by U.S. Senators Brian Schatz (D-Hawai‘i), Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), and Katie Britt (R-Ala.), would set a minimum age of 13 to use social media apps and would require parental consent for 13 through 17 year-olds. The bill would also prevent social media companies from feeding content using personalized algorithms to users under the age of 18.
“The mental health crisis among kids is real, and as the evidence on social media’s harmful role in that continues to grow, so does the urgent need for action. This isn’t a partisan issue. It’s about protecting kids, and I’m proud we continue to gain broad, bipartisan support,” said Senator Schatz.
“Social media companies subject teens and children to content that can hurt them, emotionally and physically. Our bill will help parents safeguard their kids from threats in the digital world, just as they do in the real world. I’m glad that our legislation is gathering more support—protecting kids is something all Americans should agree on, regardless of their political affiliation,” said Senator Cotton.
“Social media has serious consequences for kids’ mental health and wellbeing, but, for too long, the problem has gone unaddressed. I’m proud to work alongside this bipartisan group of colleagues to protect kids’ mental health and safety online,” said Senator Welch.
“As a father, the safety of our children is my top priority,” said Senator Mullin. “That includes their activity online. Social media companies have been pushing addictive algorithms and promoting dangerous, explicit content for too long. I’m glad to join my colleagues on this bipartisan bill to take the power away from social media companies and put it in the hands of parents and families where it rightfully belongs.”
“We can no longer ignore the mounting evidence of social media’s detrimental effect on our kids’ mental and physical health,” said Senator Shaheen. “We are the adults. We are responsible for ensuring the proper guardrails are in place so kids aren’t exposed to explicit content, drug trafficking and more while using these platforms. I’m proud to join this bipartisan effort to build those protections and hold social media companies accountable for their products’ effects on our kids.”
“As the father of three, there is nothing more important to me than the future and well-being of our children. We have seen the consequences of social media time and time again, with drastic increases in depression, loneliness, bullying, and anxiety in our nation's youth. To fight the mental health crisis plaguing the online generation, we must prioritize protecting our children and empowering parents. This bill is a positive start to that conversation,” said Senator Ricketts.
“Social media can be a blowtorch, and it is just common sense that social media companies should face ironclad regulations when dealing with children. The effect social media has on children’s mental health and well being is well-documented, and it’s got to end. This bill will help us get there,” said Senator Fetterman.
“Every time I meet with young people in New Hampshire, they tell me about the negative affect of social media on their and their peers’ mental health,” said Senator Hassan. “This bipartisan bill will take a huge step in protecting kids from the negative impact of social media, and I urge my colleagues in the Senate to support this bill.”
The United States is facing a mental health crisis and no group is affected more than adolescents, and especially young girls. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Youth Risk Behavior Survey found that 57 percent of high school girls and 29 percent of high school boys felt persistently sad or hopeless in 2021, with 22 percent of all high school students reporting they had seriously considered attempting suicide in the preceding year. One area that requires immediate action is the clear link between social media and poor mental health. Social media companies have known about this link for years, and independent research has confirmed it: social media usage is a cause for the mental health epidemic.
From 2019 to 2021, overall screen use among teens and tweens (ages 8 to 12) increased by 17 percent, with tweens using screens for five hours and 33 minutes per day and teens using screens for eight hours and 39 minutes. Studies have shown a strong relationship between social media use and poor mental health, especially among children. With this clear evidence, the U.S. Surgeon General has warned that 13 is too early for social media use and suggested that 16, 17, or 18 may be as well. In a new advisory issued in May, the Surgeon General underscored the harmful risks social media poses to kids and called on policymakers to take steps, like those in the Protecting Kids on Social Media Act, to strengthen protections for children.
The full bill text is available here.