An Amendment That Keeps Kids Under 14 From Using Social Media Gets Unanimous Approval in the Alaska House

An Amendment That Keeps Kids Under 14 From Using Social Media Gets Unanimous Approval in the Alaska House

On Wednesday, the Alaska House of Representatives passed a bill that would make it illegal for kids younger than 14 to make social media accounts. The bill was added as an addition to a bill that had nothing to do with this measure. It would require adult websites to make sure that users are at least 18 years old.

Rep. Andrew Gray, D-Anchorage, said that the idea for the social media bill came from a governor in a strict Republican state thousands of miles away.

“This amendment is based almost word-for-word on a bill signed into law last month in Florida by Gov. Ron DeSantis,” Gray told his coworkers in the late-night meeting. “Verbatim” might be too strong of a word. The 20-page Florida bill came to the Alaska House as a three-page change.

The idea is still the same, though. The change would make it illegal for kids younger than 14 to sign up for social media accounts. If the amendment makes it through the rest of the legislative process in the House and Senate and is signed into law, teens and young adults aged 14 and up would need written permission from a parent or guardian to start an account. Accounts of people younger than 14 would be destroyed.

According to a study from the US Surgeon General in 2023, “nearly 40% of children eight to twelve years old and 95% of children thirteen to seventeen years old use social media apps,” Gray said. “Teens who use social media for more than three hours a day are twice as likely to be depressed or anxious.”

And his coworkers agreed with him. The amendment was passed by the Alaska House of Representatives on Wednesday night with a vote of 27 to 11.

This add-on is part of a bill that Rep. Sarah Vance, R-Homer, the Republican chair of the House Judiciary Committee, said she wanted to see passed as soon as possible. The bill would require adult websites to use a “commercially reasonable age verification method” to make sure users are 18 or older. More than a dozen other states have also passed laws that require people to prove their age.

Gray is a member of the House minority caucus, which is mostly made up of Democrats and independents. This is a pretty unusual turn of events, since when a bill comes to the floor, members of the 23-person House majority caucus, which is led by Republicans, usually line up to support it as written.

But once in a while, something comes up that shows cracks in the mask. And the idea that kids shouldn’t be able to use social media quickly caught on.

As soon as Gray brought up the change, Rep. Jesse Sumner, R-Wasilla, spoke out in support of it. It’s similar to a bill that Sumner is in charge of in the House Labor and Commerce Committee.

Then, one by one, Democrats and independents spoke out in favor of the limits on social media.

Rep. Andy Josephson, D-Anchorage, said, “I think that kids need to get their lives back, get to know each other in their own neighborhoods, and have their innocence restored.”

“As a mom, it scares me to think that one day my kids will be on the internet or social media.” Rep. Jennie Armstrong, D-Anchorage, said, “I think looking out for our kids is not a partisan issue.” She also praised DeSantis for “taking the lead on this” topic.

But some of the youngest politicians in the House were not sure what to do. Representative Geneveive Mina, D-Anchorage, who is 28 years old, said she saw disturbing things on the bizarro imageboard 4chan when she was as young as 10 years old. She spoke in favor of controlling how much time kids spend on social media.

“I’m not sure if I’m an expert on anything else, but I think I’m an expert on being a girl on the internet,” Mina told her House peers. “This is something I’ve lived, right?” I believe this conversation has a very important depth when it comes to social media and how it affects the mental health of young women and girls.

But Alaska’s youngest lawmaker spoke out against the rule. Representative CJ McCormick, D-Bethel, who is 26 years old, talked about how social media helped him stay in touch with family. He also said that it was a big part of getting rap star Kendrick Lamar to visit Bethel after students won a college-prep contest.

We were sad that Kendrick Lamar didn’t want to come to Alaska, so all we had was a Skype call. But because of some rowdy members of the student council, we chose to make a big deal out of it on Twitter, McCormick said.

The effort on social media “got the attention of Taco Bell, who then brought us NBA star James Harden and MTV personality Sway Calloway. It turned out that Kendrick Lamar was performing at the State Fair, and he surprised us by showing up,” he said.

Rep. David Eastman, R-Wasilla, raised worries about free speech. He said that he thought the rules on social media were written in a way that would keep kids off of large parts of the internet that let people post their own content, like Amazon reviews, Google Docs, and news website comments. Eastman also said that websites that don’t want to follow the rules for age verification might leave out Alaskans of all ages.

Similar bills in Arkansas and Ohio that would have limited kids’ use of social media have been blocked by federal judges.

Others who spoke out against the bill, like Vance, who sponsored the main bill for age verification, were worried that lawmakers hadn’t looked into the social media limits enough.

Vance said, “The idea may be good, but the details of the bill are very important.” “We’re not here to talk about ideas.” We’re here to make good laws.

But many of her coworkers turned down Vance’s desire for more time, and the amendment passed with strong support from both parties. For now, the House is set to vote on the combination measure for age verification and social media on Friday.

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