Texas Republican Lawmaker Wants to Ban Minors from Using Social Media

TikTok's days for Texas teens could be numbered.
TikTok's days for Texas teens could be numbered. SDI Productions/Getty
Looks like the long arm of the Texas government could soon try to snatch up your kid’s iPhone.

In a tweet earlier this week, state Rep. Jared Patterson announced that he’s got big plans for next year’s legislative session. The Frisco Republican said he’ll file a bill that would ban social media use for all Texas minors.

Patterson’s utopia would see the minimum age for social media use raised from 13 to 18, when teens become legal adults.

“It’s long past time to recognize the incredible harm social media is doing to the mental health of young Texans,” he said in a tweet. “Next session, we put an end to it.” The lawmaker’s tweet was in response to a post by a conservative think tank that argued Texas “should be the national leader on the issue of child online safety.” (The state can hardly keep kids from freezing to death during snowstorms or getting shot to death in schools, but that's offline.)

Texas’ hyper-conservative lawmakers have been on a ban-binge in recent months. They’ve banned abortion, created a banned book list and are looking to ban family-friendly drag shows.

But it isn’t the first time that social media platforms have found themselves in the Texas GOP’s crosshairs. Lawmakers passed legislation last year aimed at preventing purported online censorship against conservatives. The U.S. Supreme Court blocked the law earlier this year.

Patterson’s tweet wasn’t well-received by other social media users, all of whom were, presumably, over the age of 18.

“How about you take away social media from your own kids and keep the state out of it?!” replied the state’s Libertarian Party. “Texans there is another choice this Nov that actually cares about freedom.”
Other users, like The Nation’s Elie Mystal, brought up the state’s full-on abortion ban.

“The idea here, from Texas Republicans, is that young girls can be raped and forced to give birth against their will, but aren’t ‘mature’ enough to talk about it on Instagram,” he said in response.
An account called “The First Amendment” offered yet another hot take.

“How about, instead, you introduce yourself to the constitution,” it shot back.
Wrangling this Pandora back into its box indeed does seem exceedingly difficult.

Smartphones — a favorite tool for scrolling through social media — are virtually ubiquitous among teens in the United States, with 95% having access to one, according to a 2018 Pew Research Center survey. Research published last year also found that teens tend to spend more than four hours on social media each day.

So, good luck pitching your social-media-prohibition plans to Texas’ soon-to-be voters. We’re not psychic, but we have a feeling you might just have to pry it from their cold, dead hands.
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Simone Carter, a staff news reporter at the Dallas Observer, graduated from the University of North Texas' Mayborn School of Journalism. Her favorite color is red, but she digs Miles Davis' Kind of Blue.
Contact: Simone Carter