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  • Writer's pictureDr. Frank Simon

House Bill 450: Noble Intentions, Wrong Strategy

Call or email your state legislator about House Bill 450!

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Representative Nick Wilson has proposed HB450 for age verification for social media to ban the use of social media by minors unless with explicit parental consent. “This measure is about empowering parents and giving them the opportunity to protect their children from the potential dangers of the internet,” Representative Josh Calloway, HB 450’s co-sponsor added. “I have heard too many horror stories of school-aged children being preyed upon by adults several states away. While this bill may not put a complete stop to this atrocity, I believe it will establish a safeguard that may save lives.”


Would HB450 actually accomplish what Kentucky lawmakers want it to accomplish? If successfully applied, could it also end other positive possible outcomes?


If the legislation passes and somehow gets enforced well, then many (if not most) children and teenagers in Kentucky would be barred from social media. That also would mean that we cannot reach them through social media. It could mean that anyone online willing to help a teenager who’s struggling to understand our political point of view or even struggling with depression would no longer be able to do that.


House Bill 450 has received some backlash and critique from people online.


Amanda on Twitter responded to the legislation proposal, saying, “So instead of going after adults that prey on children, you are making parents of kids up to 18 [to] hand over a bunch of personal information?”


The bill states that social media platforms must offer the following types of authentications of age:

  1. A digitized identification card (including a digital copy of a driver’s license or government-issued identification)

  2. Financial documents or other documents that are reliable proxies for age


According to one Twitter commentator by the name of KY Patriot 17, HB450 would “create a state registry where every parent must not only register, they must also sign a sworn affidavit for their kid to have a social media account.”


One Democrat on Twitter wrote, “Could ya’ll stay out of others peoples business, please? Social media has educational aspects. Information about hobbies too. You police your kids, and I’ll take care of mine.”


Another commentator, Andreas, remarked that the bill was a big government piece of legislation, adding, “You are not our parents and never will be.”


Eric agreed that it was a big government bill and responded, “You are proud of filing a bill to parent parents? Every social media has an age limit already.” Eric was referring to the age 13 minimum already required for children to access social media. Despite this minimum, some children do find their way on social media at younger ages (as young as eight years old) anyway.


So, there’s a serious question whether or not HB450 would be effective. Parents that have a “set it and forget it” attitude to parenting aren’t going to comply with HB450 or aren’t going to continue to monitor their own children’s activity online after they sign over the information that the government wants.


Jay wrote, “I think it absolutely is right to identify unfettered and unmonitored social media access by kids as a problem. But as a parent, it just feels like a pain... and I’m not seeing what it does beyond what many parents already do.”


On top of this, we should understand that AI have now been introduced to fool digital ID recognition software. So, minors who desire to get online could just go to those online services to produce fake IDs that would pass the age authentication software. Then there's also the hassle that social media companies (including even YouTube) might apply to its users if that legislation passes as written, since everyone who desires to use the platform would have to prove that they are at least 18 years old. What happens if your actual photo ID and other info are declined by the authentication software? You won't be able to have a social media account on that platform.


The bottom line here is that it is the wrong strategy. Kentucky House Republicans are trying to go the route of closing what they see as Pandora's Box, when the better answer is to inoculate the youth from the threat so that the youth do their best to avoid it.

It seems like a similar goal could be accomplished by ensuring that all students get the message for how to stay safe online on social media rather than putting forward so much legislation geared at parents.

 

Instead, we should give the students some “dos and don’ts” for staying safe and psychologically healthy online, such as the following:

 

  • Be Careful Who You Meet When Still a Child: Don’t meet someone in-person who you first met online if they have made sexual comments about you or tried to flirt with you

  • Do Not Enter in Credit Card and Bank Account Info in Numerical Order: Avoid the trap of keyloggers by typing in different parts of sensitive info out of order until you have the right number down

  • Abstain from Sexting: Don’t send images of your own private parts to other people online

  • Avoid Malware and Porn: Don’t click on links associated with sexy guys or gals that take you offsite off of the social media platforms, as they could send you to websites that put malware on your phone or computer

  • Inform the Police of Illegal Behavior: Do tell the law enforcement authorities if someone is sharing pornographic imagery of minors

  • Use a Public Place for Meeting People: When dating with people you’ve first interacted with online, always make the first meeting place be a public place for the first date, such as a restaurant

  • Don't Post Racist Jokes Online: It’ll ruin your reputation with peers


In other words, the minors need to take a class period of time to review the “best practices” for online safety and psychological well-being.

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