Jared Patterson, a Republican who serves as a member of the Texas House of Representatives from the 106th district, was sharply criticized after he suggested that minors should be banned from using social media platforms to prevent mass shootings from taking place.
After the Texas Public Policy Foundation, a conservative think tank, published a tweet in which it suggested that Texas “could have an opportunity to be the national leader on the issue of child online safety” by banning minors from using social media platforms, Patterson responded with a vigorous endorsement.
He announced that he will “be introducing legislation next session to ban minors from using social media,” adding that it is “long past time to recognize the incredible harm social media is doing to the mental health of young Texans.”
u201cI agree, and I’ll be introducing legislation next session to ban minors from using social media.nnIt’s long past time to recognize the incredible harm social media is doing to the mental health of young Texans. Next session, we put an end to it.nncc: @RepMaryGonzalezu201d — Rep. Jared Patterson (@Rep. Jared Patterson) 1657054190
Patterson’s announcement came after the Texas Public Policy Foundation published a paper calling for such a ban. Patterson also earlier shared an article from Fox News that quotes Tre Pennie, the President of the National Fallen Officer Foundation, suggesting that social media companies should share “worrisome content” with police.
Pennie told Fox News personality Sean Hannity that social media companies “are not even sharing information with law enforcement” even though “we know that these indicators are out here with these mass shooters.”
Pennie said social media companies are putting law enforcement in a position where “we don’t get the information before the attack occurs,” and that “there’s no way that we can intervene to stop the attacks from even happening.”
Patterson later told news outlet The Texan that such a move would be necessary to increasing public safety:
“Over the years, Texas has taken steps to improve the physical health and safety of young people. Examples include precluding them from purchasing firearms, alcohol and tobacco, or requiring car seats, booster seats and even seat belts.”
“It’s past time we treat mental health as seriously as physical health. From the conversations I’ve had with school officials in recent weeks, I’ve come to better understand the mental health threat social media imposes on our youth.“
"I look forward to having the open conversation with my constituents and my colleagues next session about raising the minimum age for social media from 13 years old to 18 years old.”
But many have criticized Patterson’s proposal, saying that it would socially isolate teenagers, particularly those living in difficult situations, such as young rape victims who are being forced to keep their pregnancies after Texas enacted a highly restrictive abortion ban as soon as the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, the 1973 landmark decision that once protected a person’s right to choose reproductive healthcare without excessive government restriction.
Others have suggested that such a move would not actually address the matter of gun violence, especially in a state like Texas, which has among the least restrictive gun laws in the nation.
u201cI’m pretty sure it wasn’t social media that killed those children in that Texas school.u201d — ud83dudc80DeathMetalVikingud83dudc80 (@ud83dudc80DeathMetalVikingud83dudc80) 1657178914
u201csometimes social media is the only outlet for children in difficult situations. being able to talk to people online when i was in middle school helped me so many times. i know that social media can be bad for general health but this dismisses all of the positives.u201d — emma (tayloru2019s version) (@emma (tayloru2019s version)) 1657228647
u201cso you’ll force them to be pregnant and give birth, but you don’t think they’re mature enough to be on tiktok? y’all are so weird and embarrassingu201d — Elizabeth May/Katrina Kendrick (@Elizabeth May/Katrina Kendrick) 1657149468
u201cSooooo. A 10 year old is old enough to give birth to her rapist’s baby but not old enough to use social media. Got it.u201d — Hairball ud83cudd98ud83cudf0a ud83cudff3ufe0fu200dud83cudf08 ud83cuddfaud83cuddf8 ud83dudc99ud83dudc9bud83cudf3bud83cuddfaud83cudde6 (@Hairball ud83cudd98ud83cudf0a ud83cudff3ufe0fu200dud83cudf08 ud83cuddfaud83cuddf8 ud83dudc99ud83dudc9bud83cudf3bud83cuddfaud83cudde6) 1657156934
u201cSo, You’re planning on using state power to crack down on speech.nnI mean you’re a republican after all. You love pretending to care about the 1st amendment.u201d — Nashoba (@Nashoba) 1657137138
u201cJared is also going to introduce legislation that makes left = right, up = down, fire not hot and water not wet. He will have an equal amount of luck accomplishing those things as he will stopping minors from using social media. His unicorn farm is coming along magnificently.u201d — Mrs John Wick Stands with Ukraineud83dudc89ud83dudc89ud83dudc89ud83dudc89u2764ufe0fud83euddaeu2764ufe0f (@Mrs John Wick Stands with Ukraineud83dudc89ud83dudc89ud83dudc89ud83dudc89u2764ufe0fud83euddaeu2764ufe0f) 1657132715
u201cIt’s funny how gun bans don’t work, but abortion bans and social media bans do. https://t.co/HjAJDfTQtEu201d — Jon Beard (@Jon Beard) 1657161613
u201cHow would you even enforce that?u201d — Jamie Cinder (@Jamie Cinder) 1657139265
u201cThey don’t want big government until they decide they can’t control their own child’s SM habits. THEN they want big government.u201d — Steffer ud83cudfc3u200du2640ufe0fud83cudf3b (@Steffer ud83cudfc3u200du2640ufe0fud83cudf3b) 1657126810
Texas has previously been in the crosshairs of national policy regarding social media platforms.
In May, the Supreme Court blocked a law that would have prohibited large social media companies from banning users for their “political viewpoints,” a victory for Republicans who have accused them of stifling conservative thought on social media platforms.
Critics of the law said it did not respect the constitutional right of private businesses to regulate the content they allow on their platforms.