DeWine aims for parental control on social media, says federal government should follow

Credit: Avery Kreemer

Credit: Avery Kreemer

Gov. Mike DeWine and his administration called on federal and state governments to adopt guidelines similar to Ohio’s looming Social Media Parental Notification Act, a provision in the Senate budget that would give parents more regulatory control on their children’s social media consumption.

The call for action from DeWine’s administration came during a press conference outlining the regulation, originally proposed in the governor’s budget, which was dropped by the House and picked back up by the Senate.

Lt. Gov. Jon Husted described the act as a way to get parents engaged in the effort to curtail negative outcomes to children’s mental and physical health, social life and academic progress that stem from excessive social media use.

The act requires that social media and gaming companies authenticate the age of users. Husted explained that those under 16 must receive parental consent, verified by the social media platform, and provide parents with regulatory control to limit screen time and moderate the content their child sees.

Ohio is one of a handful of states moving forward with this type of legislation, including Utah and Arkansas. DeWine characterized the legislation as Ohio’s initial attempt to address a national problem.

“The federal government should take this on as well,” DeWine said. “It is of national significance and it would seem to me it would be very appropriate for the Congress to hold hearings on this and for the Congress to take action.”

Husted framed social media as a problem area that has gone unregulated.

“Technology can be a wonderful thing,” Husted said. “(But) this is one area where we got it wrong. We’ve been conducting an experiment on our children that we know is failing and we need to act.”

The administration’s messaging follows an initial report from the United States Surgeon General that looked into the negative effect of social media. Administration officials presented figures from studies that found a portion of youth felt as though social media was overwhelming and made them feel worse about their lives. The administration framed the issue as a severe mental health issue that leads to higher cases of depression, anxiety and even suicide in children.

“It’s something that didn’t even exist in our society a decade ago, and today it’s an epidemic among our teens and preteens,” Husted said.

Husted said the administration worked with social media and gaming companies to ensure that the new guidelines were something that the companies could work within, though he declined to comment on which companies specifically were a part of that process.

“We have offered all of these companies the opportunity to weigh in on this to make sure we have done it in a way in which they can comply, we have listened to all of their concerns and those concerns are incorporated into the bill,” Husted said.

The Senate budget is expected to be voted on soon. After, it will likely be sent to a joint committee where select officials from the Senate and the House will deliberate the final bill before DeWine’s signature.

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