A bill filed by a Frisco lawmaker this week would ban all social media for Texans under 18. House Bill 896, authored by Representative Jared Patterson was filed on December 7.
If the bill is passed any Texas under the age of 18 would not be authorized to have any sort of social media account and social media companies would have to verify the age of users. Companies would do this by requiring the account holder to prove their age with their driver’s license. But the bill does not offer an alternative if the account holder does not have a license.
“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 an official statement. “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 Patterson’s press release, social media companies would also be responsible for removing accounts per the parent's request. If passed, companies would have to create platforms for parents' requests.
Patterson reasoned his support for this bill was due to the increase of social media’s harm to youth. He explained that self-harm and suicide rates declined in the United States until 2008, but have steadily increased as social media use among minors has risen.
“From 2009-2015 there has been an 18.8% annual increase in self-harm among girls aged 10 to 14 years old and a 47.1% increase in suicide deaths from children aged 10 to 24 during a similar time period,” Patterson said. “Texas Poison Control Center reported an increase of 48.4% in suspected suicide calls for 13 to 19-year-olds from 2004 to 2018.”
Currently, Facebook, TikTok, Twitter and Instagram require users to be over at least 13 years old before creating an account, but there is often no way to authenticate that.