RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Instagram, TikTok and Facebook are just a few of the most used social media platforms.
Nine times out of ten you might have at least one of these apps on your phone, and you may find yourself constantly scrolling on them for hours.
Some state lawmakers believe this constant scrolling is a contributing factor to the mental health crisis among teens.
That’s why Representative Jeff McNeely (R-Iredell), along with other lawmakers, drafted a bill this week combatting unhealthy social media use.
They spoke at a press conference on Wednesday.
“Unhealthy use of social media use can be found to lead to depression, anxiety, eating disorders and even suicidal thoughts and actions,” said Rep. McNeely.
House Bill 644 would prevent social media companies from using minor’s data in algorithms– protecting the privacy of minors.
Lawmakers say they believe these algorithms are what contribute to social media addiction.
“It’s almost like feeding sugar to a diabetic…it’s terminal,” said Rep. McNeely.
Sam Hiner is the founder of the North Carolina Young People’s Alliance, a student-led group that works to advocate for youth issues across the state.
“Any young person that you talk to can tell you the same story… you mean to go on your phone for five minutes and then the next thing you know two hours have passed with you scrolling away in a haze,” said Hiner. “This is because platforms use the terrifying levels of data they’ve collected on us to show us an infinite stream of content that they know we’ll find engaging, and this keeps us unwittingly sucked into their apps searching again and again for that next hit of dopamine.”
He says the use of these algorithms is ultimately leading to mental health issues among teens.
“We turn to our phones every time a conversation gets awkward or when we feel slightly lonely, and as a result we’re struggling to make connections with others in real life. Worse, the content that grabs our attention…best the content that makes us angry and insecure,” said Hiner.
Lawmakers say the bill would also create a data privacy task force that would be part of the Department of Justice that will focus on mental health issues related to social media and make recommendations to the General Assembly.