Proposed Texas Bill Aims to Ban Social Media for Children Over Mental Health Concerns After State’s TikTok Ban
A newly proposed bill in Texas would ban social media for children because of mental health concerns.
A North Texas lawmaker has introduced a bill that would require all social media users to be 18 years old to create an account.
The bill, HB 896, (pdf) introduced by state Rep. Jared Patterson proposed would force social media sites to verify a user’s age with photo ID and allow parents to request that their child’s account be deactivated.
Patterson, a Republican, represents District 106, which includes parts of Denton County.
Patterson claimed that social media was harmful and addictive to children and compared it to cigarette use before 1964, when scientists started warning about tobacco.
“Once thought to be completely safe for users, social media access by minors has led to remarkable increases in self-harm, suicide and mental health issues,” Patterson said.
Most social media sites currently require children to be at least 13 years old, but they usually do not require proof of age.
“The harm social media brings to minors is demonstrable not only in the internal research of the very social media companies that create these addictive products, but in the sky-high depression, anxiety and even suicide rates we see afflicting children,” Greg Sindelar, CEO of the Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF), told the local Fox affiliate.
“We are extremely grateful for Rep. Jared Patterson’s leadership in keeping this precious population safe, and TPPF fully supports banning social media access to minors to prevent the eternal harm of social media from destroying the next generation of Texans.”
Texas Bans TikTok Over Cybersecurity Concerns
Meanwhile, on December 7, Governor Greg Abbott issued a letter ordering all Texas state agencies to ban the use of TikTok, a social media platform owned by the Chinese Communist Party, on all state-issued devices.
“Preserving the safety and security of Texas is extremely important. The threat of the Chinese Communist Party infiltrating the United States continues to grow on multiple fronts,” Abbott said.
“While the federal government bears the ultimate responsibility for foreign policy issues, the state also has the responsibility and opportunity to protect itself.
“As a result of these threats, effective immediately, every state agency in Texas will prohibit its officers and employees from downloading or using TikTok on any of its government-issued devices,” he continued.
Abbott also Lt.-Gov. Dan Patrick and tasked the state legislature with passing cybersecurity laws after the January holidays and making the TikTok ban permanent.
All government agencies in the state of Texas will have until February 15, 2023 to implement the order.
Cell phones, laptops, tablets, desktops or any other internet connected devices used by government employees will be prohibited from maintaining the application.
Texas is now the third state in the union to ban the use of TikTok by government employees and agencies due to concerns about spying by the cyber security services of communist China.
Other states are following suit
The governors of South Dakota, Maryland, South Carolina and Nebraska also banned TikTok from all state government devices this year.
“South Dakota bans TikTok for state government. We will have no part in gathering intelligence for China, a nation that hates America,” South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem said in a tweet.
TikTok is already banned on US government devices for most federal agencies such as the US Department of State, the Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security.
The social media app reportedly has more than 80 million users in the United States, and security experts have warned that ByteDance, the parent company that owns the platform, has strong ties to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and closely monitors users’ digital behavior.
Although TikTok has claimed that it stores US users’ data in the United States, the company acknowledged in a letter to Congress that China-based employees had access to their private information.
It was also reported that ByteDance tried to use TikTok location information to monitor individual US citizens.
Furthermore, under the CCP’s 2017 National Intelligence Law, all Chinese-owned businesses such as ByteDance are required to assist Beijing in intelligence gathering, including sharing data.
TikTok’s algorithm has already been accused of censoring politically sensitive topics for the CCP and has been accused of meddling in the 2022 midterm elections to support Democratic candidates, Forbes reports.