Senators Hughes & Phillips-Hill to Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Protect Mental Health of Minors on Social Media

HARRISBURG, PA – May 5, 2023:  Today, State Senator Vincent Hughes (D-Philadelphia/Montgomery) and State Senator Kristin Phillips-Hill (R-York) introduced bipartisan legislation that takes important steps to protect minors and their mental health on social media.

With data showing far too many minors struggling with their mental health – and social media being a big contributing factor – the senators are working across party lines to address the severe effects social media is having on the mental well-being of young people.

“Our current law for teen social media use is outdated and inadequate,” said Senator Hughes, referring to the Federal Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998 (COPPA), which only requires parental consent to establish a social media profile for children under age 13. “We know the impact social media is having on young people and the drastic changes to how young people use social media since COPPA became law. We must act now to protect our children.”

“I am proud to work on this legislation with Sen. Hughes to better safeguard and protect the data of our children and put parents in the driver’s seat over their children’s well-being,” Phillips-Hill said. “The Senate has made protecting our online assets and cybersecurity a priority with bipartisan support, and this legislation continues that important work.”

The proposed legislation is based off bills in other states, including Connecticut and Ohio, as well as the Clean Slate for Kids Online Act introduced in the US Senate.

Senators Hughes and Phillips-Hill’s social media protections bill would do the following:

  • Require consent from a parent or legal guardian for anyone under 16 to open a social media account
  • Notify parents or legal guardians if a child under 16 opens a social media account without proper consent
  • Prohibit data mining for any user under 18
  • Allow individuals to request deletion of information collected or obtained while the individual was under 18
  • Create a cause of action for parents or legal guardians of minors against social media companies for harm to their children.

According to data collected by Pew in 2022, 95% of teens reported using YouTube and 67% of teens have used TikTok.  A 2018 study conducted by Pew found 45% of teens reported feeling overwhelmed by the drama on social media and 26% reported feeling worse about their own lives. 

A recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report found 16% of high school students reported being electronically bullied in 2021 and, between 2011-2021, nearly 60% of female students experienced persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness while 10% of female students reported attempting suicide.

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