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It's Time We Do Something




“It’s time we do something…”1 declared Ohio’s Lieutenant Governor, Jon Husted, in support of his state’s newly adopted “Social Media Parental Notification Act.”


Husted further explained, during the same interview, why it is such a time: “Our children have been suffering … these companies are using algorithms to target kids, to monetize them…” The Social Media Parental Notification Act says to these tech companies, “… let mom and dad know"2 ... what you are doing.


Because the hidden dangers of social media use by children and adolescents are becoming more and more evident, parents have a right to know when their children enter the murky waters of today’s online social media platforms.


According to the 2023 U. S. Surgeon General Advisory, “Social Media and Youth Mental Health:”


“Extreme, inappropriate, and harmful content continues to be easily and widely accessible by children and adolescents. This can be spread through direct pushes, unwanted content exchanges, and algorithmic designs. In certain tragic cases, childhood deaths have been linked to suicide and self-harm-related content and risk-taking challenges on social media platforms…”3


Our nation’s younger people know there is a serious problem, which is not being adequately addressed by their elders. “Nearly 3-in-4 teenagers believe that technology companies manipulate users to spend more time on their devices.” The 2023 Surgeon General’s Advisory also reports that “… some researchers believe that social media exposure can overstimulate the reward center in the brain and, when the stimulation becomes excessive, can trigger pathways comparable to addiction.* Small studies have shown that people with frequent and problematic social media use can experience changes in brain structure similar to changes seen in individuals with substance use or gambling addictions.* In a nationally representative survey of girls aged 11–15, one-third or more say they feel ‘addicted’ to a social media platform. Over half of teenagers report that it would be hard to give*** up social media…”5


Parents have a right to know.  As stated by one former U. S. Supreme Court Justice, the “primary role of the parents in the upbringing of their children is … established beyond debate as an enduring American tradition.”6   Moreover, “[t]he history and culture of Western civilization, stated the late U. S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, “…reflect a strong tradition of parental concern for the nurture and upbringing of their children.” 7  In this country, “[t]he inculcation of moral standards, religious beliefs, and elements of good citizenship”8 have long been considered to be part of the “primary role” of parenting.


To the surprise of their critics, some tech companies, at least at times, seem to agree that something needs to be done. One tech company executive recently wrote,  


“Being a parent is hard. Parents have always had the constant worry of how their children are doing in school, on the playground, on the sports field, but today’s generation of parents have a whole new world to navigate with their children: their online lives. I think about these challenges every day as we work to develop safe, positive experiences for young people on apps like Instagram, and as we think about making things simpler for parents. Parents want to be involved in their teen’s online lives, and recent Pew research suggests that 81% of US adults support requiring parental consent for teens to create a social media account. But technology is constantly changing and keeping up with all the apps teens use can feel impossible. As an industry, we should come together with lawmakers to create simple, efficient ways for parents to oversee their teens’ online experiences.” 9.


Although Federal law has long-imposed certain requirements on the collection of identifying information, including the requirement of “verifiable parental consent,” on operators of websites or online services directed to children under 13 years of age,10 a number of individual states are no longer standing by waiting for others, including the Federal government, to act further.


“As concerns arise regarding the effects of social media usage on children’s mental health, state legislators are introducing measures to protect children while using the internet and internet-based forms of communication, including social media. The legislation includes bills and resolutions that:  create study commissions and task forces; require age verification or parental consent to open social media accounts; and add digital and media literacy courses or curriculum for K-12 students. ”11


Ohio’s approach is “to create simple, efficient ways for parents to oversee their teens’ online experiences.” The law states “that certain technology, social media and gaming companies must: create a method to figure out if users are children under 16; get parental or legal guardian consent to their terms of service before children under the age of 16 can use the platform and send the parent a copy of their consent in writing; give parents their privacy guidelines so they know what will be censored or moderated on a child's profile; deny access to the user if there is no consent given; present parents with a list of censoring or content moderation features.”12


Implementation of these recent legislative efforts have been blocked by lawsuits filed by organizations representing the interests of tech companies. 13   Many alarmed parents, however, believe tech companies cannot be left alone to pursue their indeterminate approaches to protecting children and adolescents. "Society is looking to technology companies to be responsible, even if that means sacrificing short-term profits. Technology CEOs must lead the way—and the next technology challenge happening now is the challenge of responsibility."14


In an interview with one Ohio news outlet, Lt. Governor Husted, a parent himself, emphasized why he believes action by state legislatures is needed now:


“Since the beginning of the smart phone and the introduction of these social media apps, our children have been suffering. There has been an increase of mental health problems, depression, suicide, self-harm, bullying, exposure to adult content, eating disorders, academic declines; the list goes on and on… the Surgeon General recently issued a report saying that this is harmful, that basically it was an urgent public health issue, that children are being harmed by what is on these platforms, … and then my own personal experience as a father of teenagers… it’s time we do something...” 15


"These companies could solve this problem without passing new laws, but they refuse to do so,” says Husted. “Because social media companies will not be responsible, we must hold them accountable." 16


People of faith have a stake in this controversy. Future generations will be affected by what is done, or not done, in this present day.   This is no time to sit on the sidelines.


“It’s time we do something.”


__________________


1 Cincinnati Public Radio, Cincinnati Edition with Lucy May, January 18, 2024, “We talk with Ohio Lt. Gov Jon Husted as the social media law he championed heads to court,” 91.7 WVXU News, 1 Cincinnati Public Radio, Cincinnati Edition with Lucy May, January 18, 2024, “We talk with Ohio Lt. Gov Jon Husted as the social media law he championed heads to court,” 91.7 WVXU News, https://www.wvxu.org/show/cincinnati-edition/2024-01-18/ohio-social-media-law-court-jon-husted. Accessed March 30, 2024.

2 Cincinnati Public Radio, Cincinnati Edition with Lucy May, January 18, 2024, “We talk with Ohio Lt. Gov Jon Husted as the social media law he championed heads to court,” 91.7 WVXU News, https://www.wvxu.org/show/cincinnati-edition/2024-01-18/ohio-social-media-law-court-jon-husted. Accessed March 30, 2024.

3 “2023 Social Media and Youth Mental Health, The U.S. Surgeon General’s Advisory,” p. 8; https://www.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/sg-youth-mental-health-social-media-advisory.pdf. Accessed March 30, 2024.

4 “2023 Social Media and Youth Mental Health, The U.S. Surgeon General’s Advisory,” p. 10; https://www.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/sg-youth-mental-health-social-media-advisory.pdf. Accessed March 30, 2024.

5 “2023 Social Media and Youth Mental Health, The U.S. Surgeon General’s Advisory,” p. 9,10; https://www.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/sg-youth-mental-health-social-media-advisory.pdf. Accessed March 30, 2024.

6 Wisconsin v Yoder, 406 U.S. 205, 232 (1972).

7 Wisconsin v. Yoder, 406 U.S. 205, 232 (1972).

8 Wisconsin v. Yoder, 406 U.S. 205, 233 (1972).

9 Davis, A., November 15, 2023, “Parenting in a Digital World Is Hard. Congress Can Make It Easier.”, META, https://about.fb.com/news/2023/11/online-teen-safety-legislation-is-needed. Accessed March 1, 2024.

10 Children's Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998, https://www.ecfr.gov/current/title-16/chapter-I/subchapter-C/part-312, Accessed March 30, 2024.

11 National Conference of State Legislatures, (January 26, 2024) “Social Media and Children 2023 Legislation,“ https://www.ncsl.org/technology-and-communication/social-media-and-children-2023-legislation#:~:text=As%20concerns%20arise,or%20adopted%20resolutions. Accessed March 1, 2024.

12 King, D. January 7, 2024, “Court blocks Ohio law requiring parental consent for TikTok, Instagram. What it means,” Columbus Dispatch, https://www.dispatch.com/story/news/politics/government/2024/01/07/parents-can-soon-limit-kids-social-medwhat-to-know-about-new-ohio-law-limiting-kids-social-media-use/72140568007/?n=@#:~:text=The%20law%20states,content%20moderation%20features. Accessed March 6, 2024.

13 CBS News, February 13, 2024, “Judge extends hold on Ohio enforcing social media parental consent law,” https://www.cbsnews.com/news/ohio-social-media-parental-consent-law-judge-extends-enforcement-hold. Accessed April 1, 2024.

14. Jensen, T. , October 12, 2022, "The Role Of Technology Companies Is Changing," Forbes, https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbestechcouncil/2022/10/12/the-role-of-technology-companies-is-changing/?sh=6bf7d3727be3, Accessed April 2, 2024.

15 Cincinnati Public Radio, Cincinnati Edition with Lucy May, January 18, 2024, “We talk with Ohio Lt. Gov Jon Husted as the social media law he championed heads to court,” 91.7 WVXU News, https://www.wvxu.org/show/cincinnati-edition/2024-01-18/ohio-social-media-law-court-jon-husted. Accessed March 30, 2024.

16 CBS News, February 13, 2024, “Judge extends hold on Ohio enforcing social media parental consent law,” https://www.cbsnews.com/news/ohio-social-media-parental-consent-law-judge-extends-enforcement-hold. Accessed April 1, 2024.

Accessed March 30, 2024.


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