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How States are Thinking About Social Media and Mental Health

In today’s rapidly changing digital landscape, adolescents are increasingly connected online. With up to 95% of teenagers, and even 40% of children aged 8-12 on social media, this surge in digital participation has sparked concerns regarding its detrimental effects on adolescent mental health among parents and the American Academy of Pediatrics, who have declared a youth mental health crisis.

Over the last decade, the number of children and adolescents with mental health challenges has increased. Many have pinpointed technology, particularly social media, as the culprit. Nonetheless, while for some technology and social media can exacerbate mental health concerns by perpetuating body dissatisfaction, lowering people’s self-esteem, and depression, for others it serves as a vital tool for fostering connections in an interconnected world and influencing communication and access to information.

Balancing the benefits and drawbacks of technology usage requires careful consideration of protective measures to safeguard the mental health and well-being of children and adolescents. Acknowledging the existence of knowledge gaps regarding the complete impact of social media on mental health, while also recognizing its significant role in the mental health crisis, underscores the need for a nuanced approach that addresses both perspectives. In the meantime, efforts must be made to establish appropriate guardrails to mitigate its adverse effects while harnessing its potential for positive connections and support networks.

In response to these challenges, the federal government and many states across the nation are actively developing policies aimed at regulating social media usage among adolescents, promoting digital well-being, and requiring social media companies to create child-safe versions of their websites. This blog post will dive into the details of these emerging policies and their potential impact on safeguarding the mental health of adolescents in today’s digital landscape.

How States are Thinking about Mental Health and Social Media

States are taking proactive measures to address the growing concerns surrounding the effect of social media on student mental health. New York’s assembly bill 4136 proposes the establishment of a statewide youth mental health and social media campaign to raise public awareness about the effect of excessive social media usage on mental well-being. In Colorado, house bill 24-1136 would equip schools with resources and curricula focused on evidence-based approaches to alleviate the negative mental health repercussions of social media on children and teens. Additionally, it mandates the incorporation of social media education into anti-bullying initiatives within schools. Similarly, New Jersey’s assembly bill 3918 stresses the importance of addressing social media in school bullying prevention efforts and modifying student learning standards accordingly. Tennessee’s senate bill 2372 takes a stricter approach by requiring social media companies to obtain parental consent for minors to access accounts and prohibiting features that may contribute to addiction. Meanwhile, Kentucky’s house bill 767 focuses on implementing social media safety guidelines in schools, including instruction for students and the option for parents to opt-out. These range of policies collectively demonstrate a concerted effort to tackle the multifaceted challenges posed by excessive social media use among young individuals, aiming to foster healthier digital environments and safeguard the mental well-being of the next generation.

How the Federal Government is Thinking about Mental Health and Social Media

Given the urgency of this issue, President Biden has made tackling the mental health crisis a top priority, in May of 2023, President Biden announced additional actions to safeguard children’s privacy, health and safety from online harms.  Among these actions, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services allocated $2 million in funding to the American Academy of Pediatrics. This funding aims to establish a National Center of Excellence on Social Media and Mental Wellness, which will focus on researching and disseminating information, guidance, and training regarding the impact of social media on children and young people’s mental health. Additionally, the center will explore clinical and social interventions aimed at preventing and mitigating the associated risks. Funding will be available for five years, reflecting the administration’s commitment to addressing this critical issue in the long term.


Two things can be true at once: social media can be a tool to create communities, and it can also impact student’s mental health. As our world becomes increasingly digitally connected and being online becomes as common as breathing, it is critical to continue to assess the impact of social media on student mental health. Policies must strike a delicate balance, prioritizing the protection of our children while fostering age-appropriate digital exploration. 

As federal and state governments continue to develop policies, it is imperative that student’s voices be centered. Students must have an active role and should be consulted with to inform the development of these policies. Furthermore, when developing and maintaining a resource bank containing evidence-based materials, it is imperative to ensure inclusivity across diverse student populations. Research efforts must center and include a range of experiences, and materials should be culturally and linguistically sensitive to effectively support all students in navigating the complexities of digital engagement.

Finally, in recognizing the multifaceted landscape of influences on student well-being, it’s essential to acknowledge that while social media plays a significant role, it’s just one piece of the puzzle. Students today face many challenges, from housing insecurity to the enduring trauma of a global pandemic, and the unsettling realities of conflicts worldwide. Therefore, any efforts to address mental health concerns must encompass a holistic approach, considering the intersecting impacts of various stressors on young minds.

State Bills In The Pipeline

State Bill # Bill Overview Bill Status Policy Theme Date Last Updated
New York A4136 Establishes a statewide youth mental health and social media campaign to promote public awareness of the impacts of social media usage on mental health. In Committee Assembly Social Awareness Campaign 04/04/24
Colorado HB 24-1136 The bill requires the department of education (department) to create and maintain a resource bank of evidence-based, research-based, and promising program materials and curricula pertaining to the mental health impacts of social media use by children and teens (youth). The resource bank will be used in elementary and secondary schools in the state.   Requires development of guidance and training to address social media in harassment, intimidation, and bullying in schools; revises student learning standards to include instruction on social media in school bullying. Passed Resources and Curricula – Evidence Based Practices 3/11/24
New Jersey A 3918   Requires development of guidance and training to address social media in harassment, intimidation, and bullying in schools; revises student learning standards to include instruction on social media in school bullying. Referred to Assembly Education Committee Guidance and Training on social media for staff   Learning standards on social media for students 3/7/2024
Tennessee SB 2372 As introduced, requires a social media company to obtain parental consent before allowing a minor to create an account or access an already existing account; prohibits a social media company from using practices, designs, or features on the social media platform that the social media company knows or should know cause minors to develop an addiction to the social media platform. - Amends TCA Title 4 and Title 47, Chapter 18. Placed on Senate Commerce and Labor Committee Parental Consent + Company Regulations 3/07/24
Kentucky HB.767 A bill that would amend KRS 156.675 to require school districts to implement social media safety guidelines in internet access policies, require social media safety instruction for students in grades six through 12; allow parents or guardians to opt children out of social media safety instruction. In House Guidance and Training on safety instructions 03/07/24  

Jazmin Flores Peña

Policy Analyst

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