TTU child psychiatrist supports proposed social media ban

Published: Dec. 14, 2022 at 6:55 PM CST
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LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - Millions of young subscribers could get kicked off social media if a newly-proposed bill is signed into law during Texas’ upcoming legislative session.

Child psychiatrist Dr. Bobby Jain at Texas Tech says the bill would provide much needed oversight and could go a long way to improving the mental health of Texas teenagers.

“I think social media should be very well regulated, monitored,” Dr. Jain said. “Not only from the regulatory authorities but also by the parents.”

H.B. 896 would make it illegal for anyone between 13 and 18 years old to have an account on any social media platform, forcing social media sites to verify the age of account holders using their driver’s license or state issued ID.

“The emotional status is so dependent on what kind of feedback they get to it,” Dr. Jain said. “They base their whole self esteem, their whole world on how much likes and dislikes they have and followers they have.”

When teens don’t get that digital affirmation, Dr. Jain says they can experience withdrawal-like symptoms

“The areas of the brain that get highlighted and become very active are the same areas of the brain that get very active when people are using addictive substances,” Dr. Jain said.

A decrease in likes can have negative effects on a child’s mental fortitude, sometimes leading to self-esteem issues, eating disorders, and in the most extreme cases, self harm.

Dr Jain says those feelings can spread to others in real world settings.

“Kids tend to get together and they propagate each other’s problems,” Dr. Jain said. “They tend to co-infect each other.”

For those teens, turning to each other for comfort may not always be beneficial. That behavior can lead to a child depending on another person who may not have the life experience to help.

“What happens is this kid who was doing quite well now becomes inundated with such problems,” Dr. Jain said. “And starts experiencing significant emotional problems themselves.”

While Dr. Jain says more oversight is needed when it comes to social media, a ban like the one proposed in Austin may not be possible.

“I don’t think it will be feasible or completely beneficial in my professional opinion,” Dr. Jain said. “But there is ample ground for more regulation.”

The state legislature is set to convene on Jan. 10.