Following the news of Gov. Greg Abbott banning TikTok on all government devices due to its ties to the Chinese Communist Party, State Rep. Jared Patterson (R–Frisco) has filed legislation to ban minors in Texas from using social media.

House Bill 896 would prohibit children between 13 and 18 years old from using social media and would require platforms to verify users’ age by requiring the account holder to provide a photocopy of their drivers license. 

Patterson has directly correlated the rising rates of suicide and self-harm to the increasing access minors have to social media platforms. 

“Self-harm rates were steadily declining in the United States until 2008. As social media use among minors has risen dramatically, so have self-harm and suicide rates,” said Patterson. “From 2009-2015 there has been an 18.8 percent annual increase in self-harm among girls aged 10 to 14 years old and a 47.1 percent increase in suicide deaths from children aged 10 to 14 during a similar time period.” 

In early July, Texas Scorecard highlighted a report from the Texas Public Policy Foundation that shared several stories of adolescents who have experienced tragic effects from social media use. 

TPPF shared a story of a young girl named Alexis who started using social media at 11 years old. As a result, Alexis has battled anorexia nervosa, self-harm, and suicidal thoughts for years. 

A 2019 study released by JAMA Psychiatry found that minors who spend more than three hours a day on social media are at a higher risk for developing mental health issues. 

Another article by the American Academy of Pediatrics revealed a new mental health disorder associated with the platform Facebook. “Facebook depression” occurs when adolescents who spend a great deal of time on social media platforms—especially Facebook—begin to exhibit classic symptoms of depression. 

“Social media is the pre-1964 cigarette. Once thought to be perfectly safe for users, social media access to minors has led to remarkable rises in self-harm, suicide, and mental health issues,” Patterson said. “The Texas Legislature must act this session to protect children because, thus far, the social media platforms have failed to do so. HB 896 is a solution to this crisis.”

Emily Wilkerson

Emily is a summer fellow for Texas Scorecard. She is a senior at the University of Oklahoma, studying journalism with a minor in political science. She enjoys investigative journalism and making sure that every side of a story is being told.

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