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Texas Bill Would Ban Social Media for Everyone Under 18

Republican State House Rep. Jared Patterson has introduced a bill that would block residents under the age of 18 from creating a profile on social media sites, citing mental health and self-harm concerns.

(TNS) — A Texas state representative wants to ban everyone under the age of 18 from accessing social media sites like TikTok, Twitter and Facebook.

Republican State House Representative Jared Patterson cited concerns over mental health and self-harm among minors as the motivation behind the proposed bill when introducing it last week.

Patterson's bill comes amid a series of moves by Texas Republicans that aim to scrutinize and reign in the power of certain Big Tech companies. Last week, Gov. Greg Abbott banned all Texas state employees from TikTok, and in November Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton launched an investigation into a nonprofit founded by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. The attorney general also filed a lawsuit alleging that search engine giant Google is collecting users' face and voice recognition data without consent.

"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 in a release issued last week. "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," Patterson added in the release.

The bill aims to block anyone under the age of 18 in Texas from creating a profile on social media sites using a variety of methods, including a photo identification mechanism as a means of age verification, and requiring social media sites to provide pathways for parents to request removal of their kids' accounts.

The bill would also allow the Texas Attorney General's Office to pursue enforcement of Texas' deceptive trade laws if social media companies fail to comply with its age verification and account removal requirements.

Patterson isn't the first lawmaker to raise concerns about the potentially harmful impact of social media on young people. Last year, the U.S. Congress' Joint Economic Committee released a report highlighting associations between social media use and declining mental health among teenage girls. The report states that the results of the studies highlighted do not prove a conclusive link between youth mental health declines and social media use: "these findings cannot tell us whether social media use causes poorer mental health..." the committe said in the report.

Rep. Patterson did not immediately respond to a request for comment Monday.

(c)2022 the Houston Chronicle. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
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