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Bipartisan Legislation to Protect Children Online Passes Committee

Senator Vincent Hughes

HARRISBURG, PA – September 19, 2023 – The Senate Communications and Technology Committee unanimously approved bipartisan legislation that would take a major step to protect minors and empower parents, according to the bill’s sponsors, Sens. Vincent Hughes (D-Philadelphia/Montgomery) and Kristin Phillips-Hill (R-York).

The legislation is based off protections in other states, including Connecticut and Ohio, as well as the Clean Slate for Kids Online Act introduced in the US Senate. The legislation was amended by the committee to strengthen the integrity of the bill and enhance the goal of protecting children on social media.  

Earlier this year, the U.S. Surgeon General issued an advisory about the effects social media has on youth mental health and called on policy makers to strengthen standards for children of all ages.

Recent research shows that children who spend more than three hours per day on social media face double the risk of experiencing poor mental health outcomes and approximately 64% of children are exposed to hate-based content through social media.

“This legislation ultimately does two things to protect the mental health of young people. First, it empowers parents to be more involved in how their children engage with social media. And second, it sets clear guidelines that will help social media companies create better online experiences for minors who are 16 and under,” said Hughes. “The U.S. Surgeon General has warned of the detrimental effects of social media, research shows social media is associated with high rates of anxiety and depression in teens, and most recently the Basic Education Funding Commission heard from experts about the growing need for mental health support for students. Senate Bill 22 offers practical solutions to a very real issue that needs our attention.”

“Protecting children, improving mental health and empowering parents should not be and, as we proved today, are not partisan issues,” said Phillips-Hill. “It is imperative that parents are in the driver’s seat when it comes to their children on social media. This is just one way to empower parents and address the mental health crisis at the same time.”

Senate Bill 22 will be presented to the full Senate for consideration.

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