Anyone who has ever used social media has marked the checkbox stating, “I am over 13.” Anyone who has used social media while under the age of 13 has also checked that box.
Past efforts to limit minors’ social media access haven’t been successful. Yet New York has recently proposed a bill requiring kids under 18 to have parental consent to gain full access to social media platforms like TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.
It is unclear precisely what this bill would require from social media companies. It seems like in New York, social media companies would be required to determine the age of their users more accurately as opposed to a single vague checkbox.
Children between 13 and 18 would have certain features limited unless a parent allows more access. These features include targeted advertising, 24-hour access to the app, and algorithmic “For You” feeds. Supporters of this bill argue that social media algorithms are addictive for children and lead to adverse mental health problems, such as eating disorders and self-harm.
However, all the platforms listed already have policies against children under 13 using the apps, which have done almost nothing to stop young children from using the app since children (unsurprisingly) know how to lie.
This New York legislation is just one of many recently proposed bills seeking to limit children’s access to social media legally. Yet, ultimately, responsibility for keeping kids away from age-inappropriate material does not lie with the government, which would violate the property rights of a private company by forcing them to employ these rules. It also doesn’t lie with the companies, who already have policies in place to try to keep young kids off of their platforms. It lies with the parents themselves.
Parents already give their kids consent to be on social media when they provide them with access to unsupervised technology. Unless people advocate for government surveillance to monitor kids’ social media use, parents are the only adults who can effectively act on what their child is doing at home.
There are already plenty of things parents can do who are concerned about how certain social media apps or features will affect their children:
- Look into parental software that can limit screen time
- Determine whether your child needs a laptop or cellphone at all
- Sit with your child and engage with them in these conversations about how to navigate social media safely
While it is understandable that some parents are concerned about the effects of social media on their kids, they need to understand that it is not the government or TikTok’s job to parent their kids—that’s their responsibility.