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Lawmakers begin to explore social media restrictions for children

Spencer Deery speaks into a microphone on the Senate floor. Deery is a White man with brown hair, wearing a suit and tie.
Brandon Smith
IPB News
Sen. Spencer Deery (R-West Lafayette) said his bill this session on children and social media was meant to be the start of a conversation.

Indiana lawmakers are beginning to explore ways to better protect children who use social media.

Legislation got an initial hearing this session but won’t advance further, as its author said he’s getting the conversation started.

Sen. Spencer Deery (R-West Lafayette) said the challenge is finding a way to protect kids from the “harms” of social media that’s both effective and constitutional.

“You need to give parents more control over some of the more harmful elements of social media,” Deery said.

Some of the proposals in Deery’s bill, SB 201: require social media providers to get written consent from a parent or guardian before creating an account for anyone under 18; give parents and guardians more control over features on their child’s account, including how long they can access it; and limit direct messages that can be sent to a child.

READ MORE: Senate passes slate of education bills on chronic absenteeism, mental health, internet safety

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But Edward Longe from the right-leaning James Madison Institute said the focus shouldn’t be on prohibition, but on education — for both parents and kids.

“Put simply, there is no age restriction to the First Amendment,” Longe said.

Deery said he hopes to move legislation next session.

Brandon is our Statehouse bureau chief. Contact him at bsmith@ipbs.org or follow him on Twitter at @brandonjsmith5.

Brandon Smith has covered the Statehouse for Indiana Public Broadcasting for more than a decade, spanning three governors and a dozen legislative sessions. He's also the host of Indiana Week in Review, a weekly political and policy discussion program seen and heard across the state. He previously worked at KBIA in Columbia, Missouri and WSPY in Plano, Illinois. His first job in radio was in another state capitol - Jefferson City, Missouri - as a reporter for three stations around the Show-Me State.