HOUSTON (TND) — A Texas state representative is proposing legislation that would ban everyone under the age of 18 from being allowed on social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and TikTok.
Texas Rep. Jared Patterson introduced HB 896, which would require social media users to prove they are an adult before creating an account.
HB 896 would prohibit minors from obtaining social media accounts in Texas," a release from Patterson's office says. "Specifically, this legislation seeks to limit social media usage to profile accounts 18 and older, requires profiles to utilize photo identification as a means of age verification, allows parents the opportunity to request account removal of their child, and grants enforcement of deceptive trade practices to the Office of the Attorney General if violated."
Patterson's release cites rising rates of self-harm and suicide among minors as reasons the bill is needed. Those rates were declining until 2008, when social media began gaining increasing popularity, and have " risen dramatically" ever since, according to the release.
Social media is the pre-1964 cigarette. Once thought to be perfectly safe for users, social media access to minors has led to remarkable rises in self-harm, suicide, and mental health issues.," Patterson said. "The Texas legislature must act this session to protect children because, thus far, the social media platforms have failed to do so. HB 896 is a solution to this crisis.
According to the release, there was an 18.8% annual increase in self-harm for girls ages 10 to 14 from the years 2009 to 2015 in America.
Over a similar period of time, the rate of suicides in American children aged 10 to 17 and young U.S. adults aged 18 to 24 shot up 47.1%, the release adds.
Texas Poison Control Center reported an increase of 48.4% in suspected suicide calls for 13 to 19 year olds from 2004 to 2018," Patterson's release states.
The CEO of the Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF), Greg Sindelar, called social media platforms "addictive," and said his foundation was "grateful" to Patterson for leading the charge with the proposed legislation.
The harms social media poses to minors are demonstrable not just in the internal research from the very social media companies that create these addictive products, but in the skyrocketing depression, anxiety, and even suicide rates we are seeing afflict children,” Sindelar said, according to Patterson's release.
American law already dictates that children under the age of 13 have to be treated with care by website operators. The Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) "imposes certain requirements on operators of websites or online services directed to children under 13 years of age, and on operators of other websites or online services that have actual knowledge that they are collecting personal information online from a child under 13 years of age," according to the FTC.
Facebook and Instagram require users to be over the age of 13 before creating an account, but the platforms don't authenticate or police that policy unless other users report accounts for being underage.
Both TikTok and Twitter also require users to be 13 or older to create accounts, but again those platforms don't actively enforce that age restriction by themselves.
In 2018, CNN Health reported that the average age that most kids create their own social media accounts is 12.6 years old.