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Vitale Bill Aimed at Curbing Minors’ Social Media Activity Clears Health Committee

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TRENTON – In an effort to limit the worst effects of excessive social media use on young people, the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee advanced legislation sponsored by Senator Joe Vitale that would require age verification and a parent or guardian’s consent for a minor’s use of a social media platform.

“Multiple, data-backed reports point to the harmful effects brought on by overuse of social media by minors. This overuse has led to an increase in cyber-bullying, depression, and low self-esteem, as well as other negative outcomes that are adding to the mental health crisis in this country, particularly among young people,” said Senator Vitale, Chair of the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens’ Committee. “This bill will allow us to get a better handle on the issue, protect minors and make parents more aware of their children’s online and social media activity.”

Specifically, the bill prohibits a social media company from permitting a minor to be an account holder on a social media company’s social media platform unless the minor has obtained the express consent of a parent or guardian.

According to the U.S. Surgeon General’s Social Media and Youth Mental Health advisory released earlier this year, “virtually all teens (95%) ages 13 to 17 use social media, with more than 1 in 3 reporting that they use it ‘almost constantly.’ ” The advisory also noted that while most U.S. social media platforms require users to be at least 13 years old, “nearly 40% of kids ages 8 to 12 use social media.”

The bill, S-4215, cleared the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee by a vote of 5-2.