After Texas state Rep. Jared Patterson announced his support for banning minor’s use of social media, the partisan media was quick to denounce his efforts and, in the case of the Dallas Observer, declare that Texas lawmakers will have to pry social media out of children’s “cold, dead hands.” Well Dallas Observer, that’s exactly what we’re trying to avoid.
The fact of the matter is that the limited benefits that minors get from social media are not worth their lives. No amount of mental illness and physical anguish is worth the “connectivity” that can easily be made through in-person interaction. But if you still aren’t convinced, know this: social media’s own executives and tycoons are wary of social media’s powerful influence on children.
Chamath Palihapitiya, former vice president for user growth of the social media giant Facebook, doesn’t use the platform himself and neither do his children. Palihapitiya even goes as far as to say that he feels “tremendous guilt” for aiding in Facebook’s development, which he categorizes as “ripping apart the social fabric of how society works.”
Sean Parker, the founding president of Facebook, considers himself “something of a conscientious objector” when it comes to social media, adding that “God only knows what it’s doing to our children’s brains.” Tech mogul and Apple CEO Tim Cook, while he doesn’t have children himself, doesn’t want his nephew to use social media, which he describes as “a place where basic rules of decency are suspended, and pettiness and negativity thrive.”
Social media’s tycoons and executives have by and large managed to curtail their product’s influence on their own children. But as Rep. Patterson highlighted in a recent interview, the average parent “[doesn’t] stand a chance” against sophisticated algorithms and the seemingly endless resources of big tech.
Social media use amongst minors rose by around 17% from 2019 to 2021, a larger increase than occurred over the previous four years combined. As more children sign up for new accounts, instances of mental and physical torment will only continue to rise.
One such instance occurred when two young girls choked themselves to death while participating in TikTok’s “blackout challenge,” in which participants are encouraged to choke themselves until they pass out. But this isn’t just one isolated incident. Other challenges, such as the “skull breaker challenge,” led to one teenager in the hospital and two more charged with assault. In Oklahoma, a 15-year-old girl died after overdosing on allergy medicine while participating in the “Benadryl challenge.”
We could talk all day long about the fact that social media is a behavioral addiction with consequences as severe as substances like opioids and alcohol. We could talk about the rise in self-harm, depression, and bullying brought on by this technology. But the fact of the matter is children are dying. There are families that are devastated, parents and siblings left reeling—all because of social media’s degrading influence on children.
The solution is simple: Ban minors from using social media. While Congress endlessly debates how to best tackle this crisis, Texas doesn’t need to sit on its hands and wait. The time for action was years ago. Texas must attach an age limit to social media, while also holding companies accountable that fail to follow the rules. There is no benefit or amount of connectivity worth the lives of our children. It’s time to ban minors from using social media, before it’s too late.