Children don’t belong on social media

Social media prohibition must not be implemented at the expense of education.

Florida just passed legislation that will prohibit individuals younger than 14 from accessing social media beginning in January 2025.

The ban is problematic insofar as it fits into the larger trend of trying to limit youth exposure to queer content, but otherwise offers necessary sheltering from the dangers of social media. Another advantage of the ban is its placement of responsibility upon tech companies rather than children or their parents for the content presented to minors.

In addition to being rife with explicitly violent and emotionally harmful content, social media is extremely addictive.

Social media use activates the brain’s reward centre, releasing dopamine and subsequently reinforcing a need for instant gratification. This craving is generally unhealthy, but especially for children, whose brains are in such early and formative stages of development.

Social media can have overtly negative effects, increasing the likelihood of depression and anxiety amongst users.

It’s unlikely this ban could be effective without a thorough age verification system. Social media platforms could follow the lead of sports betting apps, which require users to upload photos of their identification before getting access to their apps’ features.

Education and internet literacy may be just as instrumental in the effective implication of a social media ban.

Children and teens are inevitably going to frequent corners of the internet aside from social media. The ban may spark the creation of platforms intended to circumvent it. Once they turn 14, teens will still be vulnerable to the same dangers of social media the ban aspires to shield them from.

Young people have to learn to engage critically with the media they encounter online to protect them against indoctrination and damaged self-esteem alike.

For those teens over 14 in Florida who will retain access to social media, and for the rest of our youth globally, we must begin implementing harm reduction for internet usage as we have for drug and alcohol consumption and sex.

In addition to learning how to conduct themselves online, children and teens should learn the dangers of social media usage before gaining access to it.

It’s worth noting teens who are queer or otherwise marginalized may be disproportionately disadvantaged by lost access to relevant representation present on social media.

Yet as much as social media offers users community, it threatens danger—the rate of police-reported online child sexual exploitation has risen by 217 per cent since 2014.

We must encourage children and teens towards pastimes separate from the internet. Encouraging youth to reconnect with the physical world around them is the best way to protect them and their development from overstimulation and harmful content damaging to neural pathways and self-concept.

—Journal Editorial Board


Education, Mental health, Social media, social media use

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