Friday, January 26, 2024

ANNALS OF DeSANTISTAN: For social media rules, whatever happened to Florida parents’ rights? (Howard L. Simon opinion column, Tampa Bay Times)

Lots of phony conservatives violating First Amendment rights, including parents' rights, in the name of building cryptofascist RONALD DION DeSANTIS regime.  Despicable, From Tampa Bay Times: 

Guest Column
For social media rules, whatever happened to Florida parents’ rights?
Politicians who call themselves “conservative” don’t dictate to families how to raise their children.
Should parents or the state decide what social media platforms their children can use?
Should parents or the state decide what social media platforms their children can use? [ KIICHIRO SATO | AP ]
Published Yesterday

Claiming that “social media companies are taking the lives of young people,” Florida House Speaker Paul Renner has fast-tracked legislation that would ban the opening of social media accounts for those under 16 and delete accounts held by those currently under 16.

Howard Simon
Howard Simon [ Provided ]

The dead giveaway that the legislation is on a fast track to be enacted into law? It was introduced as House Bill 1 (that’s how the “Social media use for minors” proposal is numbered) and assigned to be reviewed and approved by only two committees. Indeed, it overwhelmingly passed the House on Wednesday and is awaiting Senate action.

Of course, there is plenty of ugly material on Facebook, TikTok, Instagram, X, YouTube, WhatsApp, Snapchat and other social media platforms — plenty of bullying, and plenty of hateful messages and inappropriate content. I don’t know anyone defending the use of these platforms for those communications.

There are concerns about the harm that social media poses to mental health, including depression and anxiety. Some critics of social media have cited examples in which social media exposure has led to students dying by suicide or attempting to.

The link between social media and the mental health of young people, especially worries about appearance and body image and eating disorders among young women, is supported by limited empirical evidence and certainly needs further study. Nevertheless, the perception seems to be firmly fixed in the public’s (and the legislative) mind.

A U.S. Department of Health and Human Services study found social media use among teenagers to be “nearly universal,” and use of these electronic communication platforms to involve approximately 40% of children ages 8 to 12.

It is probably true that too many young people spend too much time on social media, but we need more data about the impact of the time on those platforms and harm to mental health. It’s also clear that legislators are ignoring the benefits and opportunities of social media for young people.

And there are both benefits as well as risks that should not be obscured by politicians with a pro-censorship agenda.

Social media use expands conversation and connection with online friends that can be a significant source of social support. It certainly did so during the isolation of the COVID-19 pandemic.

It can also boost self-esteem. Young people can also use social media to develop marketable skills that advance their future careers. Some teenagers become social media influencers, enabling them to earn money for themselves and to help support their families.

Social media also allows young people to have access to educational materials and information, which may be even more important now considering the epidemic of book bans plaguing local school boards and libraries. And yes, young people also have First Amendment rights of self-expression, which includes access to information and literature.

But all this ignores what should be the major point.

There are serious negatives to social media as well as positives for the intellectual and emotional development of young people, but the real issue is who should be doing the balancing: parents or the state Legislature?

Whatever happened to parents’ rights?

HB 1 has the Legislature dictating how parents should raise their children. That from the Legislature of a state whose governor proclaims that we live in “the free state of Florida.”

You would think conservatives would want to strengthen the ability of parents to raise their children, not dictate to parents about child-rearing. For example, how about classes in computer and social media literacy?

The orientation of HB 1 (“if we think it’s bad, it should be banned”) is the approach of an authoritarian state, not a state that respects freedom.

Even the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, which I hope is still perceived as impeccably non-ideological, takes the position that “Choosing when kids have social media accounts should be based on your family values, conversations with your children and their development level.”

This is all evidence that the “parents’ rights” mantra heard here for the last few years was always just a cover for censorship by the governor, the Legislature and the little army of book banners that have been unleashed on Florida.

Politicians who call themselves “conservative” don’t dictate to families how to raise their children.

Howard L. Simon is the interim director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida. He served as director from 1997 to 2018.


Sam said...

They'll complain about so called conservatives being kicked off of social media for their fascism and support for terrorism, then turn right around and do it to everyone else when they take the drivers seat. As long as it's fascist propaganda, it's ok.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of social media, some fraud is impersonating the St. John's County GOP on the platform formerly known as Twitter. Claiming to represent the SJC GOP and posting far right propaganda. This is a political party without internal controls and in general it has gone off the rails. Where is the leadership?