When the Virtual World Brings Real-Life Harm

Written by PTC | Published April 15, 2024

Nationwide, state lawmakers are taking heroic steps keep kids safe online.

Florida recently signed into law a bill that would prevent children under the age of 14 from creating social media accounts. Another 13 states have already passed bills aimed at protecting children from social media and online dangers. An additional 30 states have bills pending.

Recently, the PTC came out in support of two more social media bills currently making their way through the California state legislature: SB 976 which aims to limit the addictive features of social media for minors and AB 3172, which will hold social media companies liable for damages for harm to minors that can be proven in court.

I can think of no greater threat to our children’s health and well-being right now, than social media and other online harms. And that’s why it has become a top priority for the PTC.

Maybe you’ve seen news articles or interviews in the last week or so about a new book that was recently released, “The Anxious Generation: How the Great Rewiring of Childhood is Causing an Epidemic of Mental Illness.” Author Jonathan Haidt, a social psychologist, lays out how the arrival of phone-based childhood in the early 2010s ushered-in an epidemic of teen mental illness that hit many countries at the same time. According to Haidt:

  • Rates of depression and anxiety in the United States rose by more than 50% from 2010 to 2019.
  • The suicide rate rose 48% for adolescents ages 10 to 19, and for girls ages 10 to 14, it rose 131%.
  • Loneliness and friendlessness among American teens began to surge around 2012.
  • Academic achievement also started to decline around the same time, with children scoring lower on math, reading, and science assessments.
  • Gen Z -- the first generation raised with smartphones and social media -- are showing less interest in getting married and having children, are more likely to live with their parents, were less likely to get jobs as teens, are less ambitious and more risk-averse, and managers say they are harder to work with.

The danger is real. Our children and grandchildren are hurting. The good news YOU can help reverse course.

But it will take a massive effort. That’s why we are asking for your help.

We need to work to educate parents and grandparents, schools and administrators, state and federal lawmakers so that control over what our kids see and do online is in the hands of parents, where it belongs, and not in the hands of greedy, anonymous tech giants.

We also need to build awareness around online harms and social media to give parents the support they need to pushback against institutions and cultural forces that make them feel like they have to give their child a smartphone at a young age, or that they have to relent when their child asks if they can create a social media profile. That’s why the PTC is working to build out tools, like the new “Parent Resources” center on our website.

We are working with lawmakers across the country to support commonsense legislation aimed at mitigating the risks for kids online, punishing the bad actors, and empowering parents.

And that’s just the beginning.

There’s so much that needs to be done. Urgently. Can we count on your support? Make sure you sign up to receive news and updates from the PTC for practical tips on how you can take action and get involved.

Take Action. Stay Informed.