Texas Legislature

Frisco State Rep. Files Bill to Ban Social Media for Minors, Requires Photo ID

HB896 would require a user to prove their age with a photo ID when signing up for social media accounts

Matt Cardy | Getty Images

Citing concerns over self-harm and mental health, a North Texas state representative wants to stop Texans under the age of 18 from using social media and has filed legislation that will require all users to provide two photos as proof of age to gain access.

State Rep. Jared Patterson (R-Frisco District 106) filed HB896 this week that, if passed in the next legislative session, would prohibit minors from obtaining social media accounts in Texas altogether and require users over 18 to prove their age using a photo ID as well as a second photo of the person with the photo ID.

According to the bill, social media platforms must require people to use an account to access the platform and those account holders must be at least 18 years of age. Their age, according to the bill, is verified by the following: "A social media platform shall verify the age of the account holder by requiring the account holder to provide a copy of the account holder's driver's license along with a second photo showing both the account holder and the driver's license in a manner that allows the social media company to verify the identity of the account holder."

After the person's age has been verified, the social media platform is ordered to delete the personal information.

HB896 would also allow parents the opportunity to request a removal of their child's account and grant enforcement of deceptive trade practices to the Office of the Attorney General.

In a statement, Patterson cited statistics showing recent increases in self-harm and suicide among teens after years of declines and attributed those to increases in social media use.

"Social media is the pre-1964 cigarette. Once thought to be perfectly safe for users, social media access to minors has led to remarkable rises in self-harm, suicide, and mental health issues." Patterson said in a statement. "The Texas legislature must act this session to protect children because, thus far, the social media platforms have failed to do so. HB 896 is a solution to this crisis."

According to the Pew Research Center, the use of TikTok among teens aged 13 to 17 has skyrocketed since its debut while the use of Facebook has dropped from 71% to 32%. YouTube, research showed, was the top online platform for teenagers with 95% of teens using the platform. YouTube was followed by TikTok and Instagram while other platforms, like Twitter, Twitch, WhatsApp, Reddit and Tumblr, were all ranked below Facebook.

Most platforms already require a user to be at least 13 before being allowed to sign up for access, though proof of age isn't required.

Earlier this week, Gov. Greg Abbott banned the use of TikTok on state-issued laptops, phones and other internet-capable devices over cybersecurity concerns that the Chinese government could gain access to data from U.S. users.

Our partners at The Dallas Morning News report Patterson previously supported other longshot efforts to dissolve the city of Austin and ban books with LGBTQ content from Texas schools. Patterson also filed a bill in January 2021 requiring officials to notify next of kin when a death certificate is amended. The bill was filed in response to the cases involving accused serial killer Billy Chemirmir, where death certificates were changed as the investigation into the murders progressed.

Patterson, who was first elected to the Texas House in 2018, was reelected in 2020 and ran unopposed in November 2022.

The 88th legislative session begins on Jan. 10, 2023, and runs for 140 days through May 29, 2023. If HB896 is passed in its current form, it would go into effect on Sept. 1, 2023.

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