Sen. Hawley introduces bill to ban children under 16 from social media  

by Jacob Fuller

Matt Bush, FISM News

Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) introduced two bills designed to protect children from the negative effects of social media this week.

The first bill, the Making Age-Verification Technology Uniform, Robust, and Effective Act (MATURE ACT), would, “Prohibit social media companies from offering accounts to users under age 16, and hold social media companies accountable by creating an audit process and a private right of action.”

The “private right of action” means that parents or other private parties could pursue legal action against social media companies in court if they fail to abide by the legislation.

The second bill, entitled the “Federal Social Media Research Act,” would “commission a report on the harms of social media, and fully fund a longitudinal study to track social media’s effects on children over 10 years.”

“Children suffer every day from the effects of social media. At best, Big Tech companies are neglecting our children’s health and monetizing their personal information. At worst, they are complicit in their exploitation and manipulation. It’s time to give parents the weapons they need to strike back,” said Senator Hawley.


There has been a renewed bipartisan push recently to take a stand against social media platforms that cater to minors due to mounting evidence that social media is extremely harmful for children.

At almost the same time Hawley’s bill was introduced, a trio of Democratic Senators including Dick Durbin (Ill.), Richard Blumenthal (Conn.), and Maxie Hirono (Hawaii) introduced the Clean Slate for Kids Online Act.

Recent articles from FISM News, the Mayo Clinic, UNICEF, the National Library of Medicine, and many other major publications have spoken out against the harm that social media can cause to a child’s mental health.

Just a few of the statistics that have come out include:

  • 87% of American teens own an iPhone and 95% of American teens have daily access to a smartphone.
  • Non-school-related screen time among teenagers doubled from pre-pandemic estimates of 3.8 hours per day up to 7.7 hours.
  • 23.2% of teens have been cyberbullied in the last month.
  • 88% of teens have seen someone be mean or cruel to another person on a social networking site.
  • 55% of teens have given out personal information to someone they don‘t know, including photos and physical descriptions.
  • 71% of online 9-17-year-olds visit social networking sites at least weekly.

As stated by an Axios report, “In a Congress that’s mostly bitterly divided, Republicans and Democrats agree that social media and tech can harm kids’ mental health.”

However, even though legislators seem to be united in their evaluation of the harms that social media has on children, they have not been successful in pushing through legislation to counteract the issue.

At the end of 2022, two bills were waiting to be approved by Congress: the Kids Online Safety Act (KOSA) and the Children and Teens’ Online Privacy Protection Act. Neither bill protecting children was passed as House and Senate Democrats and Republicans instead focused their time pushing through a $1.7 trillion omnibus spending bill in December.

Even now, Republicans and Democrats are arguing over the most effective way to fight against technology companies rather than getting any legislation approved.

Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) warned of the harms that inaction will have:

It is almost as if these social media platforms are operating in the days of the Wild West and anything goes. And when these children are on these platforms, they’re the product.