One Oklahoma legislator wants to require parental consent for children under 16 to be on social media. Could Missouri see a similar law?

Oklahoma House Bill 3914 would require parental permission for children and teenagers under 16 to use social media.

Republican State Representative Chad Caldwell authored the bill and told KRCG, "The goal is here to really ... help and to protect our kids and to keep them from something dangerous... before they're probably ready for it and, and before they're ready to be able to make their own decisions on that."

It's possible we could see a bill like that in Missouri, although there are some potential issues with the Oklahoma bill, including how the bill would be enforced. Not to mention similar laws in other states including one in Ohio have faced legal challenges.

Interestingly enough, Missouri Senator Josh Hawley authored a bill in Congress last winter that would prohibit children 16 and under from using social media. Hawley's bill is called the Making Age-Verification Technology Uniform, Robust, and Effective Act (MATURE)

Senator Hawley had this to say about the MATURE Act to The Hill.

“Children suffer every day from the effects of social media. At best, Big Tech companies are neglecting our children’s health and monetizing their personal information. At worst, they are complicit in their exploitation and manipulation. It’s time to give parents the weapons they need to strike back."

About his Oklahoma bill, Caldwell told KRCG, "I would love it if the companies would come up with an organic solution that they would tackle this problem on their own. I think that would be a much more effective solution. But up to this point, I don't think the companies have done an effective job of it."

I don't think there will be a need for state laws like Oklahoma's though. I suspect Congress at some point will pass some type of law, similar to the one Hawley has proposed unless social media companies start to police themselves.

Last spring Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy issued an advisory on Social Media and Youth Mental Health.

In a release talking about the advisory, the Surgeon General said, "Children are exposed to harmful content on social media, ranging from violent and sexual content, to bullying and harassment. And for too many children, social media use is compromising their sleep and valuable in-person time with family and friends. We are in the middle of a national youth mental health crisis, and I am concerned that social media is an important driver of that crisis – one that we must urgently address.”

Regardless of our personal experience, there's more and more research, anecdotal and otherwise, that's showing us depending on one's mental health, social media isn't always a positive in our lives.

While I can point to the positives Facebook has brought to my life. Like helping me keep in touch with family and friends, and even reconnecting with folks I went to school with. I do find myself spending less and less time with it as time goes on.

While not a parent myself, I imagine it's got to be a bear for parents to keep up with what their kids are consuming. And they're not on Facebook, which is rather straightforward. They're on sites like TikTok, Instagram, and who knows where else. Of course, younger parents have it a little easier, because they might have been online themselves, which parents 8-10 years ago might not have had.

Perhaps it is time to let kids be kids and let them grow up without the influence of social media and let them develop a healthy sense of themselves before they put themselves online. Perhaps the real question we should be asking is when the government will give parents a hand by bringing a little bit of regulation to social media. A good place to start might be to let kids grow up without it.

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