Children and Social Media
(photo by Merakist on Unsplash)
Before, and particularly during, the Covid-19 pandemic, China began limiting the social media exposure of young children and teenagers in order to better protect mental health and curb addiction. Some of these regulations were ordered by the government, while others were the the result of strong encouragement.
These measures included:
Children under 18 (or 14) limited to watching videos for 40 minutes maximum at a time.
Children under 14 banned from certain social media between 10:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m.
Online gaming companies restricted young users to playing games only between 8:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m. on weekends and official holidays.
The goal has been to safeguard children from "destructive social media apps" and to help young people "combat self-esteem issues, suicidal thoughts and other distressing material that may cause harm." China wants to hold social media companies accountable for their platforms.
(photo by Adem Ay on Unsplash)
New laws in 2022 and 2023 are also either on the books or being considered at the local and national levels; however, this time with a twist. These regulations are not in China, but rather in the United States.
Utah will ban children under 18 from using social media between 10:30 p.m. and 6:30 a.m. and require parental consent and age verification before any young person is allowed to access social media. The State will also try to "prevent tech companies from luring kids to their apps using addictive features."
California law protects children by "barring [tech companies] from profiling children or using personal information in ways that could harm children physically or mentally."
Proposed federal legislation would require age verification and improved security features, as well as provide new parental, State, and Federal rights to respond to negative impacts.
Self-governing measures are also being rolled out. TikTok, which might itself be banned in the U.S., recently announced new limits on youth access. These include a 60-minute default time per day for those under 18. An additional 30 minutes of daily usage will be allowed if parents of those under 13 enter a code or if those between 13-18 enter a code themselves.
Whether in China or America, these existing, new or proposed regulations are aimed to combat an "unprecedented mental health crisis" among young people globally. Depression, anxiety, hopelessness, violence, trauma, and more are the heightened ills that adults are slowly (and in some cases begrudgingly) beginning to accept as valid social ills that deserve a response.