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Logo Logo Nick Hodges

Kids and Social Media

/ 4 min read

Here’s a link to a new law in Texas: Texas will require parental consent for kids to use social media

So I think this is a great issue. A perfect example of how we need to work through things. It’s tough, but there are reasonable concerns on both sides (as is almost always the case).

Now, I’m not going to argue the merits of this law. Others can do that. But I will argue the need for such a law and how it is a good illustration of how things work in a democracy.

Look, kids and the Internet is a combination fraught with peril. We can, I think, all agree on that. Vast swaths of the Intertubes are wholly and utterly inappropriate for the youngsters. And we can’t even really figure out a good way to protect them from that.

And I think that I am on solid ground in saying that concerns about kids’ access to social media are, at the very least, something that we should be talking about and considering limitations on. No one seems to be pushing Facebook to lower the age at which you can create an account from 13.

So, as a society, we have to figure out how to deal with all this. And there are legitimate concerns all around. I totally get the worries of parents, educators, and others who are concerned about what social media (an undefinable term, I totally agree, but it is what we have…) is doing to kids. (And again, what a “kid” is in this context is also up for debate.) Others are just as legitimately concerned about the legal ramifications for free speech, free access to appropriate materials, and general access to the Internet.

All of that is entirely legitimate and completely understandable. And there are definitely two opposing views on this kind of thing.

But we have to work it out, right?

I like this issue because it can illustrate how we might move forward on all issues. Folks on both sides of this might consider being reasonable enough to see that the other side has legitimate concerns, and that we need to figure out something that will, as most compromises do, please no one but kind of solve the problem.

One thing that kind of flies under the radar on this is that in order to have an effective means of enforcing this, we need to figure out a way to prove who you are and how old you are on the Internet. And remember, everyone will have to do that to join social media, not just the kids.

To be clear, that problem will be solved by humans, and as a human endeavor, it will be flawed. And such a solution will likely take time, with fits and starts and good ideas implemented alongside bad ones. (This is kind of the genius of Federalism — other states will be keeping an eye on Texas to see how their plan works out or doesn’t and will adjust accordingly.)

We live in a free society, and so people are free to be different. People can and do have different views on what is appropriate for kids at what ages. (Parents across the world struggle to figure out at what age they should get their kids a smartphone and what that smartphone can do, and what it can get to…)

But given that people will always disagree, conflict on this issue is inevitable. And that is how it should be in a democracy. We’ll never be “united” (another loaded word..) on this issue or any other, for that matter.

As it has been said, politics is the art of the possible, so we need to figure out what is possible to agree on here. Standing on opposite sides of the street screaming at each other across barricades is pretty unproductive. Seeing and dealing with the legitimate concerns of the person across the street, walking into the middle, and working it out is how it is supposed to work.

That is true for the issue of Kids Being Online, and it is valid for every other divisive issue in our country.