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Psychologist weighs in on proposed social media legal age limit

As doctors notice more mental health concerns among youth, some are wondering if social media should have an age limit. Some U.S. lawmakers are trying to put such an age limit in the books.

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Nick Broadway

FARGO — A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and prevention shows 1 in 3 teenage girls considered suicide in recent years, and some mental health experts say social media is partially to blame.

Common Sense Media — a nonprofit organization that provides ratings for media and technology and its suitability for children — is recommending teens do not sign up for things like Snapchat or Tiktok until they are at least 15.

Missouri U.S. Senator Josh Hawley thinks they should be forced to wait until they are 16, and upload a photocopy of their ID to prove it. It is an idea he's calling the "MATURE Act," and an idea more people are hearing about.

"The more I think about it, the more I realize that there are pretty terrible people on the internet," exclaimed Fargo resident Samuel Vallego.

"I was bullied over Facebook in high school. I understand where it comes from, where the law would come from, I honestly think it should be set at 18, not 16," said Fargo resident Christian Vaughn.


As social media users get younger, Sanford Psychologist, Katelyn Mickelson, is seeing symptoms of anxiety and depression increase among youth. But knowing exactly how social media impacts youth is still uncharted territory in the world of psychology, since it is only been mainstream for a handful of years.

"I have a parenting template for what my parents may have done had I snuck out in the middle of the night, or had I done something else that I wasn't supposed to do," Mickelson said. "But social media didn't exist when I was a teenager. I don't have a parenting template on what may have worked or not worked."

Mickelson wants parents to introduce social media at appropriate ages, but hopes lawmakers wait for more research before setting legal age limits. She says that instead of just telling young teenagers no, it is helpful to have reasons for not allowing social media use. She said the risks include exposure to inappropriate content, cyber bullying and not understanding the impact advertising can have on young minds.

"Social media isn't going away," she said. "I think we need to teach teens and kids how to use these platforms."

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