Common Core: RH.6-8.1, RH.6-8.2, RH.6-8.4, RH.6-8.6, RH.6-8.8, WHST.6-8.1, WHST.6-8.9, RI.6-8.1, RI.6-8.2, RI.6-8.4, RI.6-8.6, RI.6-8.8, RI.6-8.10, W.6-8.1, W.6-8.9, SL.6-8.1

NCSS: Individual Development and Identity • Power, Authority, and Governance • Science, Technology, and Society

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Expert vs. Expert

Should Lawmakers Limit Your Social Media Use?

New laws in Utah and other states aim to restrict teens’ access to TikTok, Snapchat, and other apps. Is that a good idea?

Have you scrolled through TikTok lately? Snapped a friend on Snapchat? According to recent surveys, more than half of U.S. teens visit at least one social media site daily. Millions of younger kids use them too, even though most social media companies require users to be 13 or older.

The popularity of social media among kids and teens is troubling, according to the nation’s top public health official, U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy. He says the platforms can be unhealthy for young people. Murthy cites studies showing that spending too much time on social media can lead teens to develop sleep and eating disorders, low self-esteem, and higher rates of depression and anxiety than nonusers.

Expressing similar concerns, some state lawmakers are stepping in. In March, Utah became the first state to enact laws restricting social media use by minors. Starting next year, anyone in Utah younger than 18 will need permission from a parent or guardian to use platforms such as TikTok and Snapchat. They will also be blocked from social media after 10:30 p.m., and their parents will have greater access to their accounts—including their private messages.

Arkansas and Texas have since passed similar laws. Louisiana, New Jersey, and Ohio are considering doing the same.

But these new laws have raised major questions around the rights of individuals and the responsibilities of governments. Do the laws violate the First Amendment to the Constitution, which protects freedom of speech? Do governments have a duty to put limits on technologies that lawmakers consider harmful?

Read what two experts have to say. Then decide what you think.


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Social media can be fun and helpful. It can also pose big risks to our mental health and well-being—especially for young users.

Teens are more vulnerable than adults to social media’s negative effects because their brains are still developing. That makes them more likely to be influenced by content promoting unsafe eating habits, drugs, and dangerous online challenges. And research has shown that unlimited social media access can have long-lasting consequences for young people, such as increased rates of anxiety and depression.

If companies won’t act to protect kids, lawmakers have a duty to step in—as they’ve done in the past. In 1968, the U.S. began requiring seat belts in all new cars, saving an estimated 15,000 lives a year. Since 1986, U.S. toy makers have had to follow safety regulations to reduce toy-related injuries. And in 1992, the U.S. banned the sale of cigarettes to minors. Now it’s time to take action on social media.

Lawmakers must act to protect teens from harmful content.

New laws could limit kids’ exposure to addictive features, such as autoplay of videos. They also could give more control to parents and guardians, such as letting them turn off certain features. Such measures would create a healthier digital environment.

My colleagues and I don’t believe in banning teens from social media. But we do think lawmakers should require tech companies to design better, safer platforms—and hold them accountable when they don’t.

—James P. Steyer
Founder & CEO, Common Sense Media

Top Social Media Sites Used by Teens in 2022


YouTube: 95%

TikTok: 67%

Instagram: 62%

Snapchat: 59%

Facebook: 32%

SOURCES: Pew Research Center, Statista, GWI Market Research 


Nearly 5 billion people use social media to find information and share ideas. The platforms help people find community and come together to stand up for their beliefs. It would be wrong for the government to strip teens of that ability.

Restricting kids’ social media access would violate their First Amendment rights. Free speech doesn’t mean everyone can say whatever they want on social media. Companies decide what is and isn’t allowed on their platforms. But the First Amendment does mean lawmakers can’t force social media companies to set such restrictions, even for minors.

Governments shouldn’t put age limits on the right to free speech.

Limiting access to social media hurts, not helps, young people. For example, teens blocked from social media would be left out of important societal discussions that are increasingly held online. And teens in unsafe situations wouldn’t be able to use social media to find resources and support.

Such laws hurt adults too. The Utah law, for example, will require adult social media users in that state to provide identification proving their age. Requiring people to give that private information to social media companies takes away users’ right to speak anonymously online.

Many experts agree that social media isn’t inherently good or bad for young people; it depends on how it’s used. But society is better off when everyone has a voice. Let’s help young people find and use their voices instead of passing laws that might silence them.

—Jason Kelley
Activism Director, Electronic Frontier Foundation

Make Your Case

Which argument is stronger: that governments have a responsibility to protect teens or that teens have a right to use social media freely? Underline or highlight details from the experts’ essays that support your claim.

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