Family Digital Wellness: How HB 2017 Will Protect Kids Online

Social media connects people across the globe, but it can negatively impact the mental health of children. Excessive use of social media platforms among children is linked to increased rates of anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem. Part of this is the proliferation of cyberbullying, and victims being subjected to harassment and abuse that can have a devastating impact on emotional wellbeing.

One Pennsylvania representative has proposed legislation to curb such cruelty on social media platforms.

House Bill 2017: Protecting Pennsylvania’s kids online

Rep. Brian Munroe (D-Bucks) announced House Bill 2017 during a Feb. 6 press conference at Tamanend Middle School in Warrington. The legislation, which was “co-authored” by three Tamanend students, if adopted would:

  • Require social media companies to supervise chats involving two or more minors
  • Inform parents about any “flagged sensitive or graphic content”
  • Require parental consent for children under 16 to create social media accounts
  • Limit data mining on users under the age of 18

The legislation was inspired by a video the three students made as part of a C-SPAN competition. The video, “America’s Silent Struggle,” detailed the impacts that social media can have on the mental health of youth. “The video they produced called for legislation on social media, especially due to its impact on youth mental health …  And make no mistake that this was a cry for help for a generation suffering the brunt of social media’s impact, soaring rates of anxiety, self-esteem issues and depression, all while social media companies rake in the profits with minimal accountability,” Munroe said.

The PFSA team supports HB 2017, however, we cannot rely on legislation alone to protect our children and address the youth mental health crisis.

Discussing Family Digital Wellness

Justin Donofrio, PFSA’s Prevention Services Manager, recently appeared on Pennsylvania Newsmakers to discuss the youth mental health crisis. He discussed the overall mental health struggles our youth are experiencing and the role social media plays in contributing to this crisis. “While it’s very important to have laws and legislation that helps regulate (social media platforms) … there’s still a lot more that needs to be done with that first point of contact being in the home,” Donofrio told host Terry Madonna.

The best approach to protecting our youth on social media involves building confidence in them by teaching them how to recognize red flags while using social media platforms.

“What we’re trying to do with our Family Digital Wellness initiate is … when something does occur that’s not good for them (on social media) how do we teach them the steps to follow so they know what to do in a situation like that”, said Donofrio.

Check out the Family Digital Wellness hub for more resources and information on what you can do to protect your children online while fostering safe, healthy digital behaviors.

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