Dems and Republicans uniting to protect kids from social media, Utah congressman says

Mar 14, 2023, 6:00 PM | Updated: Mar 15, 2023, 8:44 am

Kaleigh Rogers, FiveThirtyEight's technology and politics reporter,  joined a recent episode of In...

Kaleigh Rogers, FiveThirtyEight's technology and politics reporter,  joined a recent episode of Inside Sources, with host Boyd Matheson, to explain how campaigns are trying to use micro-internet trends.(Associated Press)

(Associated Press)

SALT LAKE CITY —  A Utah congressman has been leading a national effort to protect kids online from the dangers of social media. His bill is uniting both Democrats and Republicans.

Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah, joins Inside Sources host Boyd Matheson to discuss his bill, what it does and how it’s enforced.

“As we look at all that our young people face today, the digital world continues to be a really ominous, negative impact on our young people. What should the conversation be as it relates to social media?” Boyd asked.

“The evidence of this, studies on this is just irrefutable: Social media has an enormous negative impact on our young people,” Stewart said. 

In 2010, about 63% of American high-school students reported using a “social networking site” on a daily basis. But by 2014, 80% of high-school students said they used a social media platform daily, and 24% said they were online “almost constantly.”

By Chris Stewart and Spencer Cox

Social media’s impact on kids

Stewart added broad, national studies have shown, “something like 40% to 41% of our young people, aged 14 to 24, have been diagnosed with depression or anxiety, and a frightening number of them, in the high 20s to nearly a third of young people, have said they have contemplated suicide and discussed how they would commit suicide with a friend,” Stewart said.

“The average 13 to 18-year-old, but again, including 13-year-olds [spends] nine hours a day on social media,” he said. “The average 8- to 10-year-old [spends] five and a half hours a day on social media.”

How using social media affects teenagers: Experts say kids are growing up with more anxiety and less self-esteem.

How it began

Stewart said social media’s influence on young people started in 2012 when Facebook bought Instagram.

“They intentionally began to market to 9, 10, 11, 12, 13-year-old girls, and then to the same age group of boys. And as that social engagement increased, so did the anxiety, so did the depression, so did the suicide. We have to do something,” Stewart said.

Dems and Republicans are — what? — uniting behind this effort

Stewart said his bill is seeing bipartisan support in Congress. Even the president has written about the need to protect children from social media’s negative influences.

By Joe Biden Republicans and Democrats, Unite Against Big Tech Abuses 

 “I didn’t know when we first introduced this [and] began talking about it three months ago if we’d be able to get it passed,” Stewart said, “but we’ve got such broad support, including from our Democratic colleagues, I think we’re actually going to be able to get it done.” 

“Give us a sense of what is in there [Stewart’s bill] and how can that be helpful to our young people?” Boyd asked.

“So the bill is actually fairly straightforward. It just says if you’re younger than 16, you can’t have a social media account,” Stewart said.

He said requiring identification for creating a social media accounts is the enforcement mechanism, but it also gives families, parents and U.S, states legal standing to sue social media companies if they do not comply with the bill’s requirement for legal ID to create a social-media account.

Suicide prevention help 

Boyd also pointed out that Stewart’s multiyear effort brought the universal telephone number (988) for suicide prevention into existence. The number went live on all telephone devices beginning July 16, 2022.

Rep Stewart’s suicide prevention hotline, 988, goes live this week

If you or somebody you know is contemplating suicide, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline provides 24-hour support at 1-800-273-8255.

Related video:

US Surgeon General says 13 is too young to join social media

Related reading:

Opinion: We protect children in the physical world — why not the digital world?

Sen. Hawley proposes social media ban for kids, mirroring Utah Rep. Stewart’s House legislation


Inside Sources with Boyd Matheson can be heard weekdays from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. on KSL NewsRadio. Users can find the show on the KSL NewsRadio.

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Dems and Republicans uniting to protect kids from social media, Utah congressman says