State representative wants to keep minors off social media

State Rep. Jared Patterson said he will be introducing legislation during the next session to prevent minors under 18 from using social media in Texas.

AUSTIN, Texas — State Rep. Jared Patterson (R-Frisco) took to Twitter Friday to announce he would be introducing legislation to ban minors from using social media in Texas. 

“It’s long past time to recognize the incredible harm social media is doing to the mental health of young Texans,” Patterson wrote in a tweet Tuesday. “Next session, we put an end to it.”

The tweet was in response to an article shared by the Texas Public Policy Foundation arguing for the ban of minors from social media.

Patterson said the idea for the new bill came from before Tuesday, initially spurring from talking with school officials following the mass shooting in Uvalde. 

“I started a series of conversations with officials about schools safety–if you could wave a magic wand to solve a bunch of problems, what would it be? Almost every one of them said social media,” Patterson said.

Patterson said he thinks there needs to be a public conversation about social media, citing an increase in self-harm and suicides from 2007 to 2017, after the rates had actually been dropping prior to 2007. 

“You’ve got more and more use of social media, and social media companies have AI and algorithms and teams of engineers and child psychologists they hire to figure out and develop ways to improve every single day how to hook kids and keep them on the product longer,” he said. 

Patterson compared social media use today to minors smoking prior to the Surgeon General report on smoking in 1964, and said he thinks something similar will happen to social media in the coming years. 

The bill would include all the big names in social media–Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok. Similar bills introduced in other states would include any social media company with more than one million users. 

Patterson said he isn’t trying to lock up kids, but that penalties for social media companies could be introduced for targeting children to use their services, similar to how it was made disadvantageous for cigarette companies to advertise to kids and putting warning labels on packs. 

He stressed this is not his response to the Uvalde shooting and that a host of topics related to child safety would be looked at next session. 

“We’re in a bad place right now and I think we’ve got to look at all the best options to protect kids,” he said. 

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