NJIT's Student Newspaper

The Vector

NJIT's Student Newspaper

The Vector

NJIT's Student Newspaper

The Vector

Parents Should Monitor Their Children’s Usage, Not a Bill


How many of you remember the Tide Pod Challenge? It was fairly recent, so most of us have either seen videos about it online, or at least heard about it in passing. The challenge originated from an internet joke based on a tweet mentioning how Tide Pods might be good to eat as they look like candy.  

The Onion, a satirical publication, decided to take this one step further and published an article about a young child wanting to eat Tide Pods. This soon bled over to YouTube, and YouTubers began to capitalize on this trend. Keep in mind that the vast majority of the audiences of these Youtubers were teens and pre-teens, so they might not have fully comprehended the concept of satire.  

One thing led to another, and thousands of children were poisoned by consuming these products. This led to the company making the packaging more child-proof in hopes of combating this epidemic. Unfortunately, this is not the first time a phenomenon like this has happened in the past decade.  

If you have access to any type of social media, you must have watched videos about children and pre-teens making messes at beauty stores like Sephora and Ulta and complaining about the lack of sizes at Lululemon. This obsession stems from the beauty influencers that they follow on TikTok, Instagram, or even YouTube. The influencers showcase the usage of products that cost an obscene amount of money for the average American, and these adolescents wreak havoc should they not receive what they want. 

What do these two events have in common? Children and how they are influenced by social media. These children are at the age where they no longer need constant surveillance from their parents but are also not fully grown adults who make sound decisions.  

In these two cases mentioned above, the companies can only do so much to prevent the loss of capital. In the case of Tide-Pods, the company tried to make the packaging more child-proof in hopes of combating this epidemic. As for these beauty and clothing stores, no action has been taken yet despite the ruination of their testers and already packaged products.  

Therefore, the responsibility of these children lies with the parents. Parental supervision is not a new concept, but with the ever-advancing technology and accessibility to the Internet, parental supervision needs to change with the times. Going back to the beauty retail store dilemma, we cannot blame the kids for how they act because children often mimic the mannerisms of their parents.  

It is said that if the parents do not change, then there is little hope for the child, as it is a monkey see, monkey do situation. On the other hand, it’s an age-old story of children trying to behave as adults through games such as dress-up or imaginative play. Each generation has its own thing, and for Gen Alpha, it is this; however, that is not the focus of this article.  

The concept of children being influenced by the media is not an anomaly. Some fitness influencers can promote actions tailored to adults, and for a child that does not have the best body image or just wants to fit in, following such individuals can be harmful to their mental well-being. Children are often tempted to follow whatever they perceive is ‘cool’ or in style because they do not know any better or just have become desperate to fit in.  

In the long run, if left unspoken about, such trends can have a negative impact on their health, whether it be physical or mental. There are also ‘alpha male’ podcasts that discuss how women should be seen and treated in a different manner. If a young boy heard of this, they might be inclined to listen, potentially causing harm to their outlook on women individually or societally. 

Circling back to the parent’s role as a monitor to their children — it can be highly beneficial to the child to have guidance from an adult. Parents can steer them away from negative influences and permit positive or educational content. Many videos are fun and age-appropriate, and content like that does not need to be blocked.  

This is where platforms like YouTube Kids are beneficial, as they allow the child to watch age-appropriate content. Parents can take a breath of relief, knowing that they do not need to constantly scrutinize the videos that their children are watching.  

A recent bill was proposed by the lower house of Florida and has been passed to the state senate after a bipartisan vote. This would limit youth access to social media by banning new and existing accounts of children under the age of 16 through age verification for as long as they are residents of the state. The bill identifies any “social media platform” as one that tracks the activity of the user, a place where they can upload content or interact with the posts of other users, and a platform with addictive designs to capture their attention so that they spend copious amounts of time on the platform.  

The exceptions are platforms that use emails, digital games, direct messaging, e-commerce, streamers, news, and any platforms used for professional development or exposure. Thus, children may use platforms that are for educational purposes. Also, there will be complete access to “law enforcement, suicide prevention, and domestic violence prevention services,” and a way to report “harmful behaviors.” 

Children aged 16 to 18 would have to sign a waiver indicating they are accessing addictive content that is harmful to their mental health. Once the bill is in place, the children have five days to completely delete their accounts. Any violation of this bill is a fine of up to $50,000; should the bill pass, it will take effect on July 1 of this year.  

This bill seems acceptable on paper, but it opens a new can of worms. I think that age 16 is too high; 13 would be more appropriate. 16-year-olds are in high school and exploring who they are, only two years away from reaching the age of majority.  

Back to the bill — what does it mean by “appropriate age verification”? Children are by no means unintelligent; they can use their parents’ accounts to easily bypass these rules and regulations. This would also negatively impact the availability of important resources available to adolescents.  

If everything were to be heavily monitored, how would children get information about escaping harmful and toxic environments or even exploring their interests or sexuality if they do not have a trusted adult to go to? The final swing of the axe is that the fine itself can bankrupt thousands of families.    

Again, there are so many potholes, mountains, and bridges that need to be crossed to make something like this happen. So, unless there is a way to have this bill enforced without an infringement on civil liberties, the monitoring rule must be left to a parent’s discretion about what content a child consumes and how much time they spend on social media apps. 

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Vaishnavi Kodali, Staff Writer
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