This year, Connecticut is trying to pass state legislation that will require social media companies to get parental consent for children under the age of 16 in order to use the platforms.
The bill was originally introduced in a 2022 legislation session but was never passed. Despite this, it did have several supporters, the Children’s Committee being one of them. This year, the bill will be introduced to the General Law Committee. The committee sees the importance of making this bill a priority in terms of its relations to children.
The proposal for the bill states, “That title 42 of the general statues be amended to require a social media company to obtain consent from a minor’s parent of guardian before allowing the minor to establish a social media account if the minor is younger than 16 years of age.”
Youth mental health is being taken into consideration with the creation of this legislation. Junior Allison Peto discussed how content has changed over the years on media platforms.
“Social media has now developed into this world of posting the very best parts of your life as a way of almost proving to your followers how cool your life is,” said Peto. “This can give those followers a false impression of what a person is like behind the screen and can have a negative impact on people seeing only perfect and flawless people on their timelines.”
These changes as well as the way the media is being used and perceived have raised concern for parents and their children’s perception of themselves and their own lives. The increased presence of social media has caused an increase in mental health issues in young people.
“I think that social media can have both a positive and negative impact on young children, but the cons outweigh the pros. Social media has become a place where everyone, regardless of age, is obsessed with how their photos look and how many likes they get and that can get toxic,” said Peto.
James Castonguay, Director of the School of Communication, Media and the Arts, is well versed in both media and parenting and sees the importance of this bill.
“I do think it is important for younger children to have parental oversight over social media access. And, as a parent myself, I am, of course, a strong supporter of parental rights in this regard,” said Castonguay.
While the bill demonstrates the importance of parental consent on social media, it lacks education on social media practices after consent is given.
“Part of the challenge, however, is that, unlike many other countries that teach media literacy from elementary school through high school, many U.S. parents were not taught media literacy in school,” Castonguay said. “A well-informed, media literate parent and public are in a better position to make decisions about their children’s healthy media use.”