Well, at least the majority party of the state can no longer claim to be the party of the small state. You should ask your lawmakers, dear reader, the next time they hold a local town hall: When did you tip?
This social media bill, which passed the ledge in the final hours of the session, goes a step too far (again). Some of us fully supported the Age Verification to View Porn Act because minors should not be legally exposed to this garbage. But they can be exposed to some garbage completely legally. Like bad TV sitcoms. Or some of their music. Or social media.
The Ledge sent the governor a bill mandating age verification for (we think new) social media users or parental permission for those under 18. We’re hoping that the governor is the little Republican that the Republicans used to be and doesn’t sign him.
There is no denying the harmful effects that social media can have on children. (The United States Surgeon General says children under 14 shouldn’t use it at all.) But the Arkansas law is an overreaction and overstatement to fix a societal problem, and it’s fraught with problems.
The first: What about minors who are already on social media? The law is written so vaguely that lawyers are still trying to figure it out.
But parents should be allowed to become parents. Want your kid to have a phone but not have access to Facebook? Get them a clamshell phone. Another option is a parental control app where parents can monitor their child’s activities. And there is always talk. A conversation goes a long way, or used.
There are also many responsible children who use social media to connect with relatives and friends both near and far. It can be fun. Even educational. The point is that parents should raise their children to be critical thinkers who can tell good from bad themselves. Without the help of nosy legislators not at the kitchen table.
This bill would apply to users after the bill goes into effect and would require social media companies to contract with a third-party provider to perform age verification, where people have a digital copy of a driver’s license, one issued by the government issued ID or “any commercially reasonable age verification method” to verify their age. Users under the age of 18 must obtain permission from a parent or legal guardian in order to have a social media account.
So… will people be asked to upload sensitive personal information, potentially opening the door to identity theft cases?
Children are much smarter than our state government gives them credit for. What’s stopping a 14-year-old from stealing his mother’s driver’s license, uploading a digital copy, and then creating his own account? If you don’t think this can happen, you haven’t been paying attention.
The effort put into this bill would be far better spent educating parents and children about healthy social media habits. Let’s hope the governor kills it.