AUSTIN (KXAN) — A North Texas lawmaker is proposing a ban on social media access for those under the age of 18, filing a bill to be considered in the 88th Texas Legislative Session come January.
House Bill 896 proposes “an individual between 13 and 18 years of age may not use a social media platform.” The bill calls for ramped up verification processes for platform uses, including requiring an account holder to provide a copy of their driver’s license along with a second photo displaying “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.”
Rep. Jared Patterson, of Frisco, is the author behind the bill. He told KXAN Wednesday said the measure was inspired by conversations he’s had with law enforcement personnel and school administrators in his district. He added research into adverse impacts social media has on teens’ mental health also factored into this bill filing.
“That’s really what led us down this path and saying we need to act, something needs to be done to protect our kids here in Texas,” he said.
Patterson said he has received bipartisan support from some of his legislative colleagues so far, who critique outdated social media policies.
“I’m calling out the pre-1964 cigarette — just like in 1964 when the Surgeon General came out and really detailed the harms of cigarette use, I believe that’s where we are in society today,” he said. “That we’re on the cusp of really determining and figuring out that social media has had dire results for our children.”
If the measure were to pass and become signed into law, he said he would want the Texas Office of the Attorney General to hold social media companies accountable and “make sure that they are going by the letter of the law.”
While he said law enforcement and educational professionals have highlighted concerning social media trends in teens, he also said social media companies have acknowledged these poorer impacts.
The TikTok Safety Center includes a well-being guide that outlines its platform protection measures to not promote, normalize or glorify suicidal or self-harming behavior. Instagram’s help center also details self-injury and eating disorder content and protections in place against them.
With that though, Patterson said clinicians and professionals have pointed to correlations between increased social media use and more detrimental mental health conditions, making it harder for him to support kids’ access to it.
When asked about criticisms or concerns some might have with First Amendment protections and the measure, Patterson said it comes down to “reasonable limitations in place.”
“A child can’t buy a handgun, but a child has Second Amendment rights. There are reasonable limitations that we put on children to protection them,” he said, adding: “No child has the ability to consent to the data that they are sharing with these social media companies.”