Adobe Stock

A proposed New York bill would restrict social media companies from designing algorithms to target children without parental consent. According to The Wall Street Journal, New York lawmakers reached a tentative agreement on a bill that would prohibit social media companies from sending minors after-hour notifications without parental consent or from offering automated feeds to minors. The bill would still allow for adolescent social media users to follow the accounts of their choosing, but their feeds would be presented in chronological order rather than curated to the users’ interests. The bill is still being finalized by legislators, but it is expected to be brought up for a vote within the week.

The bill is aimed to curb the reportedly addictive qualities and poor mental health outcomes social media is having on minors. The American Psychological Association (APA) found that the average US teen spends nearly 5 hours on social media apps like YouTube and TikTok per day. The study found that 41 percent of teens with the highest amount of social media use rated their mental health as poor or very poor, while only 23 percent of those with the lowest use would rate theirs the same.  A recent study from the PLOS Mental Health Journal conducted 12 neuroimaging studies of hundreds of adolescents aged 10 to 19 between 2013 and 2022 who were considered “internet addicted,” defined as “one’s persistent preoccupation with the internet, withdrawal symptoms when away from the internet, and sacrificing relationships (for) time to spend on the internet over an extended period of time (e.g., 12 months).” Through a series of MRIs, researchers found that internet addicted adolescents showed signs of disruption in the areas of the brain responsible for things like paying attention and working memory.

If the New York bill passes, it would be the first of its kind to prohibit the ways social media can deliver content to minors. California is reportedly looking to pass similar legislation. At a press conference, New York governor Kathy Hochul (D) stated she hoped the issue would see federal protections put in place. “It does call for a federal response. I, as the leader of this state, cannot ignore the signs of distress and trauma among our young people. And it’s definitely correlated to what is happening with these social media feeds,” she said. Proponents of the bill accuse it of being unconstitutional. Carl Szabo, vice president and general counsel for NetChoice, a trade group including Meta and X, side it was “less unconstitutional” than outright censorship. “Unfortunately, when it comes to constitutionality, close doesn’t count. You either are or you aren’t,” he said. “This legislation continues to violate free speech protections granted to New York citizens.”

More from Beliefnet and our partners
Close Ad