FRISCO, Texas (WCNC NEWS) — A Texas state representative has filed a bill that he hopes will prevent minors under 18 from using social media.
State Rep. Jared Patterson (R-Frisco) filed the bill ahead of the state’s next legislative session, which is expected to begin on Jan. 10, 2023.
“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 in July, when he first introduced his plans to file the bill.
Patterson spoke with the team at Y’all-tics in July, stating that he thought parents stood no chance against the algorithms that social media companies are using to target their kids.
“We have a crisis — a mental health crisis — with our young people,” Patterson told Y’all-tics. “And I believe that the artificial intelligence, the machine-learned algorithms [and] these teams of engineers and even the child psychologists that these social media companies hire to target our kids, to hook our kids and to keep them on their product longer, I think that those things are very dangerous to our kids. I think those are the conversations we need to be having in a very public way.”
Patterson compared social media use now to minors smoking prior to the Surgeon General report on smoking in 1964, saying that he thinks something similar will happen to social media in the coming years.
In Patterson’s bill, H.B. No. 896, a child between the ages of 13 and 18 would not be allowed to use a social media platform. The bill said social media platforms would require users to have an account in order to utilize that platform and that the platform would verify that the account is being held by a person at least 18 years of age.
The bill said the platform would verify the age of the account holder by “requiring the account holder to provide a copy of the account holder’s driver’s license along with a second photo showing both the account holder and the driver’s license in a manner that allows the social media company to verify the identity of the account holder.” The platform would delete personal information “immediately upon completion of the age verification process.”
WFAA met with three children ages 11, 12 and 13, who, by the proposed bill’s definition, would be too young to have social media. Only one of the three currently uses social media, but he says he wouldn’t be devastated by the proposed age limits.
“For me, 18 is fine. That’s where you’re the age you are mature to have those apps…you have the understanding,” said 12 year old Aaron Molina Jr..
The parents of all three children were overwhelmingly in favor of an age limit. Two of the sets of parents do not allow social media for security reasons.
“You can definitely see a difference in the attitudes and things they’re influenced by when they’re on it and when they’re not,” said parent Audra Schovan.
If the bill passes, it would go into effect on Sept. 1, 2023.
“We’re in a bad place right now and I think we’ve got to look at all the best options to protect kids,” Patterson said.
During a press conference on Nov. 30, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick unveiled a list of 21 legislative priorities that included property tax relief, boosting border security, school security and election laws.