Putting parents in charge of social media could help Gen Z mental health, experts argue
Pro-family policy priorities could address a mental health crisis that shows no signs of reversal since experts worried about college-aged and college-bound students’ fragility back in 2015.
The report suggests parental oversight and age restrictions on social media as antidotes to 'mental health threats … and the broader negative effects of a childhood intermediated by screens.'
Recent pro-family policy priorities put parents in charge of their children’s social media use.
The priorities address a mental health crisis that shows no signs of reversal since experts worried about college-aged and college-bound students’ fragility back in 2015.
The Institute for Family Studies (IFS) and Ethics and Public Policy Center (EPPC) shared their priorities in a report published on Feb. 16. The report suggests parental oversight and age restrictions on social media as antidotes to “mental health threats … and the broader negative effects of a childhood intermediated by screens.”
“Parents should have more ability to protect their kids online, recognizing that different families are going to have different approaches to kids and tech,” the author, EPPC fellow Patrick Brown, told Campus Reform.
“The tools we highlight in the report would put parents in the drivers seat and give them more ability to help their children stay safe online.”
Brown referenced “increasing evidence that teens, particularly teen girls, experience mental health challenges from social media.”
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On Feb. 13, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) released data revealing that “57% of girls in grades 9-12 experience persistent feelings of hopelessness,” a 21% increase in a 10 year period, as previously reported.
If legislation based on the policy priorities were enacted, minors would need parents’ permission to open social media accounts. Parents would also maintain administrative access to monitor their children's accounts, which they would not be able to open until age 16.
Bills introduced in Congress reflect similar priorities, with Sen. Josh Hawley proposing a bill in February to raise the age limit for opening a social media account from 13 to 16.
Brad Wilcox, a University of Virginia professor and IFS fellow, told Campus Reform that states are also acting on these issues.
“[L]egislation is passing this week in Utah that will give parents more authority to help guide their teens’ use of social media,” he said.
“New bills are pending on the teens and tech front this spring in Texas, as well. These bills are designed to [reduce] teens’ exposure to platforms that can harm them emotionally and give parents more power to help guide their adolescents’ use of tech.”
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The policy priorities address four other areas to “support family life, strengthen marriage, and stand up for parents,” including federal paid parental leave for both new moms and dads.
Sens. Marco Rubio and Marsha Blackburn, who Wilcox said attended the priorities' launch, "are leading the legislative way on a number of these issues."
Brown told Campus Reform that “problems facing families are not just culture war issues, but economic ones as well–parents bear the cost of childbearing individually, but the benefits flow to all of society in the form of future citizens, taxpayers, and job creators.”
“So at a time when marriage and fertility rates are at or near all-time lows,” he continued, “we need to be thinking about the burdens that are weighing down families and think about how policymakers can creatively address them.”
Campus Reform contacted all relevant parties listed for comment and will update this article accordingly.