Senators unveil bipartisan legislation to ban kids under 13 from joining social media platforms
(CNN) -- A new federal bill unveiled Wednesday would establish a national minimum age for social media use and require tech companies to get parents' consent before creating accounts for teens, reflecting a growing trend at all levels of government to restrict how Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and other platforms engage with young users.
The proposed legislation by a bipartisan group of US senators aims to address what policymakers, mental health advocates and critics of tech platforms say is a mental health crisis fueled by social media.
Under the bill, social media platforms would be barred from letting kids below the age of 13 create accounts or interact with other users, though children would still be permitted to view content without logging into an account, according to draft text of the legislation obtained by CNN.
Tech platforms covered by the legislation would also have to obtain a parent or guardian's consent before creating new accounts for users under the age of 18. The companies would be banned from using teens' personal information to target them with content or advertising, though they could still provide limited targeted recommendations to teens by relying on other contextual cues.
It's the latest step by lawmakers to develop age limitations for tech platforms after similar bills became law this year in states such as Arkansas and Utah. But the legislation could also trigger a broader debate, and possible future court challenges, raising questions about the privacy and constitutional rights of young Americans.
Speaking to reporters Wednesday, Hawaii Democratic Sen. Brian Schatz, an architect of the federal bill, said Congress urgently needs to protect kids from social media harms.
"Social media companies have stumbled onto a stubborn, devastating fact," Schatz said. "The way to get kids to linger on the platforms and to maximize profit is to upset them — to make them outraged, to make them agitated, to make them scared, to make them vulnerable, to make them feel helpless, anxious [and] despondent."
In what could be one of the most far-reaching changes to the technology landscape, the bill seeks to create a government-run age verification program that can certify users' ages or parental status based on identification they upload to the government system or to a third-party verifier.
Under the bill, that program would be a pilot project administered by the Department of Commerce, and participation and use of the federally managed age verifier would be voluntary. But it would represent a potentially vast expansion of the government's role in regulating websites where age verification is a requirement.
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