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  • Writer's pictureTori Leto

Navigating the Intersection of Youth and Social Media: Who Bears the Responsibility for Regulation - Parents or Policy Makers?

In today's digital age, the pervasive influence of social media on young minds is undeniable. As parents, educators, and lawmakers grapple with the complexities of protecting youth from the potential harms of social media while respecting parental rights and upholding the First Amendment, two significant bills, the Kids Online Safety Act (KOSA) and HB3, have sparked heated debates.


At the heart of this discussion lies a fundamental question: is it the role of the government or parents to regulate social media for youth? While some argue for robust government intervention to safeguard vulnerable young users, others emphasize the importance of parental oversight and individual freedoms.


KOSA takes a proactive approach to address the risks associated with social media for youth. This bill aims to hold social media platforms accountable for prioritizing the safety of children by implementing default safety measures and providing tools for parents and guardians to mitigate the negative impacts of social media. Endorsed by prominent organizations such as Common Sense Media, the American Psychological Association, and the 5 Rights Foundation, KOSA represents a collaborative effort to create a safer online environment for young users.


Conversely, HB3, recently signed into law by Governor Ron DeSantis, takes a different approach by placing restrictions on social media access for minors. Under HB3, children under the age of 14 are prohibited from creating social media accounts, while 14- and 15-year-olds may do so with parental consent. This legislation targets the addictive features of social media platforms, aiming to curb excessive screen time among youth without infringing upon their First Amendment rights.


However, the passage of HB3 has stirred controversy, with critics arguing that it encroaches upon parental rights and fails to address the root causes of social media addiction. Democratic Representative Anna Eskamani highlights the need for improved parental oversight tools and investments in mental health programs, rather than outright bans on social media access for minors.


Indeed, the negatives of social media for young people cannot be overlooked. From cyberbullying and online harassment to the detrimental effects of excessive screen time on mental health and well-being, the risks are manifold. Studies have linked prolonged social media use to increased feelings of loneliness, anxiety, and depression among adolescents, underscoring the urgency of proactive intervention.


As we navigate the complexities of regulating social media for youth, it is essential to strike a delicate balance between safeguarding their well-being and respecting individual liberties. By engaging in constructive dialogue and collaborative policymaking, we can work towards creating a digital landscape that empowers young users while mitigating the risks associated with social media consumption.


My Story: 


In contemplating the issue of social media regulation, it's important to acknowledge that adults, like myself, often find themselves grappling with the addictive allure of these platforms. Personally, I've experienced the struggle of managing screen time on social media and recognize the detrimental effects it can have on mental well-being.


When discussions arose about the potential banning of TikTok, I found myself genuinely hopeful for such action. Why? Because I recognized that it could serve as a catalyst for me to reduce my excessive digital media consumption, which I admit has become an unhealthy habit that I struggle to control.


Reflecting on my own childhood experiences online, I must admit that the internet was not always a safe space for myself or my peers. Despite the efforts of my protective parents to implement browser lockdowns and internet safeguards, I, like many persistent teens, found ways to circumvent these measures. (Sorry Dad).


I was 13 on sites like Omegle where I was shown stranger genitalia and laughed alongside my friends. I would spend hours on Tumblr watching video edits romanticizing self-harm and eating disorder culture. Further perpetuating its attractiveness to myself as an impressionable youth that just wanted to feel affirmed and seen. 


At the age of 13, I failed to recognize the potential dangers behind my online activities. Consuming content like Grey's Anatomy, I felt a sense of maturity, convincing myself that I was "old enough" to navigate the vast world of social media. However, looking back, I realize how misguided I was.


My journey through social media during my adolescence was far from positive or beneficial. I fell victim to cyberbullying at the hands of my peers, and regrettably, I also found myself participating in similar behaviors towards others. It's clear to me now that social media had a detrimental impact on my upbringing.


Given my own experiences, I am deeply passionate about the need for preventive and proactive measures to address the youth mental health crisis through government regulation of social media. It's imperative that we prioritize the well-being of our young people and create a safer online environment for future generations.


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