May 17, 2023

Government Banning Minors From Using Social Media Does Not Empower Parents

By: Frances Floresca

Why should it be the job of the government to tell parents how to run the lives of their children? 

Several states have banned social media use for minors, claiming that it gives parents more power. 

Lawmakers also claim that it addresses youth mental health and addiction, as well as attempts to stop predators and cyberbullying. Members of Congress have also introduced similar legislation. 

While these measures have garnered praise by elected officials, they are knee-jerk reactions that could lead to unintended consequences. 

After all, we should be in favor of removing government interference to empower parents. 

While a lot of parental rights in education legislation is not perfect, it has removed barriers to enable families to have more access to what their children are learning in schools, which is a step in the right direction for transparency.

School choice programs also remove barriers for families to allow them to choose where their children go to school. 

However, banning minors from using social media does not remove barriers nor move towards transparency. In fact, it takes power out of the hands of parents. 

There is not a one-size-fits-all solution to parenting. Some parents may want to give more autonomy to their children and others may want to have access to their social media. 

For instance, legislation in Utah included onerous and draconian measures, such as civil penalties for social media companies, intrusive age verification, and enforced curfews. 

History has shown that prohibition on items has often led to more dangerous and illicit activities. We have seen this with guns, alcohol, and drugs. Banning minors from using social media can lead them to using platforms with explicit content such as pornography and violence. 

Instead of imposing more government restrictions, social media platforms should give options for parents to decide how to manage social media with minors. Without government involvement, these platforms can give better access to parental controls.

For example, on Youtube Kids, parents are able to set a password to prevent the child from changing it back to regular Youtube. 

Facebook has created a social media learning tool for those under 13, but it still gives parents access. Once the child turns 13, parents can also change privacy settings and set up content restrictions for what their children can see.

When I started using Facebook at 13-years-old, my parents wanted to have access to my account whenever they wanted, but they soon began to give me autonomy over my devices and social media accounts. 

In fact, I got an Instagram when I was about 16-years-old, and my parents did not know I had that account until I was halfway through college. 

It is also the choice of parents to not have their children on social media. 

However, using social media has become integral to the real world as it is useful for interactions, staying informed, and networking. In certain cases, it can be helpful in landing a job. 

Parents should consider teaching them how to use it and show them safe practices on these platforms, especially if the child decides to use social media one day as an adult. 

Learning how to use social media can also equip children how to identify and combat cyberbullies and predators, prevent potential violence in schools, as well as recognize and report inappropriate content. 

When the government interferes in how parents run their households, it undermines their autonomy. It is not the proper role of the government to dictate how parents should raise their children.