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Kids and social media

Millions of children and young adults throughout the nation are active social media users. Last week two bills dealing with social media’s impact on child and adolescent mental health passed the Assembly Health Committee.

Worldwide, there are 34 social media platforms, with at least 100 million users. According to a U.S. Surgeon General’s report last year, 95% of teens aged 13 to 17 use social media, and more than one in three report they use it “almost constantly.” Most social media platforms require users to be at least 13, but 40% of children ages 8 to 12 report they use social media despite age restrictions.

As we all know, adolescence is a critical period of development. The report found that adolescents who use social media more than three hours each day face twice the risk of experiencing poor mental outcomes. These include depression, anxiety, inadequate sleep, low self-esteem, eating disorders and online harassment.

On the other hand, social media’s impact on our youth can be beneficial. Positive community connections with others who share identities, abilities and interests, increased self-expression and the ability to form friendships and social connections can all be enhanced through social media.

The issue is complex, and requires more attention, but additional standards and safeguards may be necessary. AB 2657 will set up the Social Media Commission, composed of experts and stakeholders tasked with creating a comprehensive report with formal recommendations for regulating social media as it relates to child and adolescent mental health.

AB 2390 will create a Social Media Harm Reduction Pilot Program to comprehensively examine the adverse mental health impacts resulting from the use of social media by children through the 12th grade. Both bills were introduced by Assemblyman Joaquin Arambula (D – Fresno) and passed the Health Committee without opposition.

Our vulnerable children and youth must be protected during their formative years. By passing AB 2657 and AB 2390, we will begin to take a look at a critical mental health issue that impacts children, youth and our future.


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