Skip to content

Schatz, Cruz, Murphy, Britt Introduce Bipartisan Legislation To Keep Kids Safe, Healthy, Off Social Media

Kids Off Social Media Act Sets Social Media Age Minimum To 13, Stops Use of Algorithms To Feed Addictive Content For Teens Under 17

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Brian Schatz (D-Hawai‘i), a senior member of the Senate Commerce Committee, Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Ranking Member of the Senate Commerce Committee, Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), and Katie Britt (R-Ala.) introduced new legislation to keep kids off social media and help protect them from its harmful impacts. The Kids Off Social Media Act updates legislation Schatz introduced last spring and would set a minimum age of 13 to use social media platforms and prevent social media companies from feeding algorithmically-targeted content to users under the age of 17. In addition to Schatz, Cruz, Murphy, and Britt, the Kids Off Social Media Act is cosponsored by U.S. Senators Peter Welch (D-Vt.)., Ted Budd (R-N.C.), John Fetterman (D-Pa.), Angus King (I-Maine), and Mark Warner (D-Va.).

“There is no good reason for a nine-year-old to be on Instagram or TikTok. The growing evidence is clear: social media is making kids more depressed, more anxious, and more suicidal. This is an urgent health crisis, and Congress must act,” said Senator Schatz.

“Every parent with a young child or a teenager either worries about, or knows first-hand, the real harms and dangers of addictive and anxiety-inducing social media. Parents know there’s no good reason for a child to be doom-scrolling or binge-watching reels that glorify unhealthy lifestyles. The Kids Off Social Media Act not only helps these families in crisis, but it also gives teachers control over their classrooms. Our bill includes bipartisan provisions I’ve championed to restrict teenagers’ access to social media on federally-subsidized school networks and devices. Young students should have their eyes on the board, not their phones,” said Ranking Member Cruz. “I am grateful to Sen. Schatz for his dedication to finding solutions to the significant challenges facing millions of parents of young children and am hopeful that our bipartisan legislation, along with other proposals like KOSA and COPPA 2.0, will greatly reduce the physical and emotional dangers threatening many of America’s youth.”

“As a parent, I see firsthand how damaging social media can be to kids. Social media companies know that they are hurting our children with their addictive products, yet they refuse to adequately protect our kids from harm because it would hurt the companies' profits. The intentionally addictive algorithms used on these kids can spoon feed content glorifying suicide or eating disorders within minutes of creating an account. That's horrifying, and it's why it's especially important to treat these algorithms just like nicotine or alcohol and keep them away from minors. I'm glad we have bipartisan agreement on this legislation and look forward to getting it through committee and onto the floor as soon as possible,” said Senator Murphy.

“There is no doubt that our country is facing a growing youth mental health crisis that is inextricably tied to the rise of social media usage by children and teenagers. Families are being devastated and futures are being destroyed in every corner of our nation. I’ll continue to work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to enact the commonsense, age-appropriate solutions needed to tackle this generational challenge,” said Senator Britt.

No age demographic is more affected by the ongoing mental health crisis in the United States than kids, especially young girls. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Youth Risk Behavior Survey found that 57 percent of high school girls and 29 percent of high school boys felt persistently sad or hopeless in 2021, with 22 percent of all high school students—and nearly a third of high school girls—reporting they had seriously considered attempting suicide in the preceding year.

Studies have shown a strong relationship between social media use and poor mental health, especially among children. From 2019 to 2021, overall screen use among teens and tweens (ages 8 to 12) increased by 17 percent, with tweens using screens for five hours and 33 minutes per day and teens using screens for eight hours and 39 minutes. Based on the clear and growing evidence, the U.S. Surgeon General issued an advisory last year, calling for new policies to set and enforce age minimums and highlighting the importance of limiting the use of features, like algorithms, that attempt to maximize time, attention, and engagement.

“Social media can take a serious toll on kids’ mental health and wellbeing, and it’s critical those problems don’t go unaddressed,” said Senator Welch. “I’m proud to partner with a bipartisan group of my colleagues to protect children’s safety, mental health, and wellbeing online.”

“Parents in North Carolina and across the country are rightly concerned about the mental health crisis among our young people. This bipartisan bill includes the Eyes on the Board Act, which is a commonsense solution to ensure that kids are focused on their studies at school rather than social media. I’m proud to join my colleagues to propose a solution to ensure that the next generation of Americans is protected from harmful habits that rob them of their attention and their mental health,” said Senator Budd.

“As a parent to three teenagers and a social media user myself, I've seen firsthand the damage social media can have on mental health,” said Senator Fetterman. “While social media can be a valuable tool for self-expression and connection, we need to establish clear boundaries. The Kids Off Social Media Act addresses the dangers posed by algorithm-driven content, which have fueled issues of addiction, eating disorders, and suicide among young people. By setting a minimum age for social media use and restricting algorithmic targeting, this bipartisan bill will help keep our kids safer and healthier.”

“America’s youth should be protected from the harmful impacts of social media and from traumatic online content during their most formative years,” said Senator King. “The bipartisan Kids off Social Media Act would establish reasonable guardrails and set a minimum age for users of social media to protect our children from tech companies exploiting and manipulating the youngest Americans. It would also require schools to block and filter social media access on federally funded Internet networks. Our children and grandchildren deserve to grow up without the damaging risks of social media and this legislation will take meaningful steps to protecting our youth from these impacts.”

“Parents across the country are struggling to protect their kids from the harmful effects of too much social media. I’m proud to join Senators Schatz and Cruz in this bipartisan effort to enact some common sense guardrails for kids and teens using social media platforms,” said Senator Warner.

Specifically, the Kids Off Social Media Act would:

  • Prohibit children under the age of 13 from creating or maintaining social media accounts, consistent with the current practices of major social media companies;
  • Prohibit social media companies from pushing targeted content using algorithms to users under the age of 17;
  • Provide the FTC and state attorneys general authority to enforce the provisions of the bill; and
  • Follow existing CIPA framework to require schools to block and filter social media on their federally funded networks, which many schools already do.

Parents overwhelmingly support the mission of the Kids Off Social Media Act. A survey conducted by Count on Mothers shows that over 90 percent of mothers agree that there should be a minimum age of 13 for social media. Additionally, 87 percent of mothers agree that social media companies should not be allowed to use personalized recommendation systems to deliver content to children. Pew finds similar levels of concern from parents, reporting that 70 percent or more of parents worry that their teens are being exposed to explicit content or wasting too much time on social media, with two-thirds of parents saying that parenting is harder today compared to 20 years ago—and many of them cited social media as a contributing factor.

“Public Citizen stands in strong support of this legislation intended to protect the nation’s children from the pernicious impacts of social media. Frequent use of social media can harm vulnerable children and teens as their identities and feelings of self-worth are forming. A straightforward ban for younger children and stopping abusive algorithmic engagement with teens just makes sense. We applaud Senator Schatz for his commonsense bill,” said Lisa Gilbert, Executive Vice President of Public Citizen.

“We survey mothers on pressing issues they face and on the federal bills that seek to address them. We do this because mothers’ first-hand experiences and knowledge are critical sources of information in the policy-making process. This bill, newly renamed the ‘Kids Off Social Media Act,’ had more support by mothers -- across the political spectrum -- than any bill we've studied. Mothers are on the frontlines of this issue, and according to our quantitative and qualitative study, they overwhelmingly believe that social media companies' products and practices should be regulated using age limits and guardrails, similar to other harmful substances,” said Jennifer Bransford, Founder of Count on Mothers.

“Our nation is facing a severe crisis in children’s mental health,” said Dr. Regena Spratling, President of the National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners. “Every day pediatric nurse practitioners (PNPs) and other advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) focused on children’s health see the serious impact that social media can have on our young people’s well-being. The ‘Kids Off Social Media Act’ will help to provide parents the tools they need to safeguard their children from threats in the digital world.”

“Preparing nurses to help address our country’s growing mental health problems is one of nursing education’s highest priorities,” said Dr. Beverly Malone, President and CEO of the National League for Nursing. “The National League for Nursing is pleased to support the ‘Kids Off Social Media Act’ as an important step to help parents and health care professionals shield our young people from harmful online content that can lead to behavioral health problems.”

“KIDS TOO strongly supports comprehensive legislation that protects kids on social media. Senator Schatz's Kids Off Social Media Act solidifies prohibiting youth under 13 from maintaining or creating social media accounts. This bill gets to the root of the issue by eliminating the chance of young kids being vulnerable to harmful tactics by predators, bullies and drug dealers,” said Tania Haigh, Executive Director of KIDS TOO.

“We’re still learning about the long-term implications that unfettered access to social media has on children and adolescents. Until then, especially considering evidence showing that the way people use social media can impact mental health outcomes, it makes sense to put safeguards in place. As we learn more, we can modify these safeguards as needed. But we need to begin somewhere, and this legislation would provide an opportunity to more clearly understand whether modest safeguards can protect children and adolescents and what responsible measures look like,” said Chuck Ingoglia, President and CEO of the National Council for Mental Wellbeing.

The Kids Off Social Media Act is supported by the American Counseling Association, KidsToo, National Association of Social Workers, National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners, Tyler Clementi Foundation, National Council for Mental Wellbeing, Count on Mothers, Parents Television and Media Council, Parents Who Fight, Public Citizen, National Federation of Families, National Organization for Women, National Association of School Nurses, National League for Nursing, and American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry.

The full text of the bill is available here. For more information on the Kids Off Social Media Act, click here.