Pro-family think tanks come up with ideas for smart policies protecting kids from big tech

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Any attentive parent has clearly seen how technology and social media affect the lives of our children. And many realize that this influence has too often been negative, even more corrosive than any of us ever imagined.

How do we protect our children from the harmful effects of technology by teaching them to live their lives and to discern the good and the bad of the current culture?

Well, the good folks at the Institute for Family Studies (IFS), an academic think tank focused on research to help strengthen family values ​​and parental authority, and the Center for Ethics and Public Policy ( DC-based EPPC) just released a very important new report – a legislative file – offering five smart policy ideas (and a bonus idea!) that states can adopt to help parents protect their children from harmful influences online.

These recommendations are:

  1. Establish age verification laws for social media and other platforms.

Under current US law, requiring age verification of minors visiting porn sites is unconstitutional. This must change and this report calls for it. These authors argue that the same should be done for all social media platforms. Require social media platforms to require all users to prove their age to access their services and content.

  1. Require parental consent for contract offers on the Internet for minors under the age of 18.

States should prohibit a social media company or website from offering an account, subscription service, or contractual arrangement to a minor under the age of 18 in their state, without parental consent. These authors explain, “This law would be quite controversial, but it rests on a solid foundation of the First Amendment.”

This report talks about it,

The effect of such a law could be significant. When people join social media websites or use most commercial websites, they agree to terms of service, which are binding contracts. Depending on the penalty for forming such a contract without parental consent, these laws could change the way websites work. If the penalty is severe enough, it could also require websites to verify the age of users, to ensure that parental consent is given for any account created by someone under the age of 18.

This would give parents greater control over the actions of their children, as the following proposition would do.

  1. Mandate full parental access to minors’ social media accounts

States could also pass laws requiring social media platforms to give parents or guardians full access and control of all social media accounts created by minors between the ages of 13 and 17. Although a state may not want to take up the challenge of enacting a comprehensive ban on the use of social media by minors (see bonus option below), states could at least require that social media companies give parents full access to minors’ accounts so that parents can see everything their children do online.

  1. Mandate a complete shutdown of social media platforms at night for minors

This would mean requiring social media companies to completely shut down access to their platforms for all users aged 13 to 17 from 10:30 p.m. to 6:30 a.m. This would ensure that young people cannot be distracted from their sleep, or find reason to obsess over the behavior or messages of others during this time.

  1. Create causes of action for parents to seek legal remedies with alleged damages

Essentially, this would allow parents to sue social media platforms for harm caused to their children as a result of their exposure to dangerous material featured on their sites. The report states,

For example, considering the four laws above, a parent could be empowered to sue respectively: (1) a website or platform distributing material harmful to minors without having implemented a system of age verification, or who is found guilty of allowing minors under the age of 13 on their platform; (2) an account creation platform for a minor without parental consent; (3) a platform that does not allow full parental access; (4) or a platform that allows minors to access the platform during night hours. In addition to the private cause of action, a law could also include the possibility of collective actions.

The report even presents a provocative, but quite serious “bonus proposal”.

Prime: Adopt a full group on social media for everyone under 18.

The authors explain, “This would be the boldest approach a state could take to protect children from social media. But this is not unprecedented. »

They add, “Some states already place age restrictions on many behaviors known to be dangerous or inappropriate for children, such as driving, smoking, drinking, getting tattoos, and enlisting in the military, among others. Similarly, a state could recognize social media as an activity prohibited to minors.

Many parents would find this bonus offer a welcome solution to the many unhealthy distractions to which young people are tempted today.

“Even in the face of mounting evidence that Big Tech is taking a heavy toll on our teens, neither Congress nor the courts have taken adequate steps to protect children from platforms that promote anxiety, envy, pornography, loneliness, insomnia and suicide”, explain these authors. “Thus, it is incumbent on states to step into the breach and act now to better hold parents accountable and protect children online.”

These very sober and wise proposals should be given serious consideration by states, as our individual states serve as democracy labseach trying different versions of these much-needed ideas, improving weaknesses and emphasizing strengths.

Social media has become an obvious social and psychological environmental toxin of various strengths and dangers for all age groups. Its impact is most dramatic on our young people. IFS and EPPC are to be commended for their bold ambition in making such proposals. Now is not the time for state legislators and citizens to take up the challenge of adopting wise and protective measures for the well-being of our children.

Photo of Shutterstock.

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