ALEC Statement of Principles for Teen Use of Social Media

NOTE: Prior to task force meetings, ALEC posts these legislative member-submitted draft model policies to our website. The draft model policies are then discussed, debated, and voted on by ALEC task force members. Policies that receive final approval by legislators on the ALEC Board of Directors become official ALEC model policy. Draft model policies that fail to become official ALEC model policy are removed from the website.

Summary

This statement of principles affirms that online safety and the well-being of children should be a priority for social media platforms and policymakers, and that social media platforms have a responsibility to make safety features easily usable for all users. Parents and caregivers should be in charge of education, health care, and mental health decisions for children and teens in their households, not the state or any private company. The statement acknowledges that although there are benefits to social media, there will also be edge case harms that cannot be prevented by regulation or changes in platform policy. Legislation on child online safety must not violate First Amendment speech rights, nor should they pose a risk of warrantless government surveillance, data collection, or jawboning. Legislative solutions should be narrowly targeted and address nuanced harms, rather than blanket prohibitions. Finally, legislation should emphasize educating students on healthy social media habits as opposed to prohibiting access.

ALEC Statement of Principles for Teen Use of Social Media

Laws and regulations governing the safety of teens (ages 13-18) and their use of social media should be consistent with the principles outlined below.

  1. It is without dispute that the safety and well-being of children and teens should be of priority for social media platforms and policymakers.
  2. Social media platforms are making improvements on safety features for users but there remains a gap between awareness and usability of these features by users and their caregivers. Social media platforms have a responsibility to make these features easily usable for all users.
  3. The rights of parents and caregivers should be respected as the ones in charge of and best able to care for teenagers in their household. The state, any of its political subdivisions, any other governmental entity, a private company, or any other institution may not infringe on the fundamental rights of a parent or primary caregiver to direct the upbringing, education, health care, and mental health of his or her teen.
  4. Social media done at scale, while having significant benefits for all users, will inevitably and tragically result in edge case harms impossible to prevent by regulation or changes in platform policy.
  5. Legislation designed to protect teenagers must not violate the First Amendment speech rights of minors, adults, and corporations.
  6. New laws should not pose a risk of increasing the likelihood of warrantless government surveillance, mass data collection, or government jawboning.
  7. Well intentioned proposals should not expose teens or adults to increased harm in the case of criminal data breaches. Policies that require users and teens to share personally identifiable data by nature increases the likelihood and severity of a data breach.
  8. Recognition that device manufacturers, major app store and mobile operating system developers have parental and caregiver features to filter content, use, and app availability.
  9. Lawmakers should ensure teen social media safety proposals are narrowly targeted and avoid approaches that would have broader effects deeper in the technology stack
  10. Lawmakers should address nuanced harms of social media use, rather than seeking blanket prohibitions.
  11. Legislation should emphasize educating students about healthy social media habits and the importance on staying safe online as opposed to prohibiting access.