UAlbany students: Proposed social media law is step in the right direction

Social media’s grip

What the generation who grew up online thinks about social media as new legislation is aimed to limit it for kids.

13Investigates has spent two weeks reporting on proposed legislation that would limit social media’s grip on teenagers.

We’ve previously explained that two bills are aimed at making online platforms less addicting.

Even though these bills will not affect anyone over 18, if passed into law, we wanted to get the opinions of college students. That’s because they’re young and part of the generation that grew up online.

J.T Stone, James Cuddy, Amal Berredjem, and Kaitlyn Bisig said social media is how they connect with friends.

“TikTok or the reels, it’s the icebreaker into a conversation. Within that small group of friends, you may have, maybe four people, one person sends a random video in there and then the conversation starts. It’s not a, ‘Hey what’s up?’ anymore or, ‘What are you up to?’ it’s like, ‘Look at this! Now tell me what’s going on?’” it’s that icebreaker within that social media conversation,” said Cuddy, a political science major.

The two proposed bills would force social media companies to limit children’s access to what it calls addictive social media feeds, ban notifications from midnight to 6 a.m., give parents more control, and kids would be kicked offline after a certain number of hours.

How social media affects mental health

College students share their personal experience with social media and if it played into their mental health.

The four UAlbany students explained how active they are online.

“Very active. Every day. Multiple hours throughout the day,” Berredjem said, a sociology & journalism student.

“I feel like it’s almost a requirement in our generation. So many people are on it. You almost have to be on it to be cool, to be hip. To know what people are talking about,” Stone said. “I know for me, I’m a journalism major. We’re told you should be on Twitter, you should get an account with X because everyone else is on it. Also, it’s a way for journalists to share your work with people and also for you to see what other people are posting…despite the impacts it has on mental health, youth mental health. The impacts it has on doing other work and being productive, but I definitely feel it’s almost a prerequisite to know what’s going on if you’re our age.”

“I agree. As an aspiring journalist, I find myself getting 90% of my news from online now,” Berredjem said.

13Investigates also asked the group what they thought of the bill.

College students voice concerns of social media restrictions for teens

“I don’t know if it would have made a huge difference necessarily just because there are already steps to do that,” Bisig said. “That being said, and now that I’m thinking about it, some parents might not know they have that control.”

“I don’t think it’s too far-reaching. I think anything beyond certain aspects is really good, like the restricting of notifications from 12 to 6 a.m…. anything beyond that censoring what they can or can’t see online might not be the best choice,” Berredjem said. “There’s kids that online is their only community. Is there only place, ‘who I am is OK.'”

“I think restricting from midnight to 6 a.m. ads and the selling of whatever is a great idea,” Cuddy said. “However, where’s the line between parents restricting what you can read? what library book you can read? and what you can see on the internet?”

“It’s a step in the right direction. I do wonder what enforcement would look like. I do worry about parental overreach,” Stone said.