Banning social media for teens won't help anyone

Published on 3/26/2023 - 3 min read (896 words, 1132 tokens)

Utah recently passed a bill that limits children's access to social media, and I think this is a profoundly bad idea with a theoretically sound premise that is just unworkable in the modern internet era. Of course though, the preceding generations that don't understand the brave new world we have created don't realize this. And in the meantime kids will just suffer.

What happens when the kid is queer and the parents are hateful? What happens with people like me?

I'm such a queer kid that grew up in a conservative household (in Seattle no less, I don't get it either). When I was in middle school, I started to question my gender and then my parents found out on accident. I was confronted and I had no time to prepare for this.

Of course I failed, and then my parents managed to find my support group via a group text message line (if you remember those, please get a colonoscopy this year) and I was wholly and irreversibly cut off from the people who were trying to help me. Then that desire to really know myself got shoved back into the closet deep, and it nearly stayed there.

Without that resource of people to talk with, I was lost. I was truly alone and had nobody to talk out my gender issues with. My parents couldn't understand my form of existence, and with them shutting me down as much as they did, I eventually decided to not talk with them anymore.

I managed to transition anyways in spite of that, but it took valuable time that would have made me get an aesthetically better result if I had started earlier.

I fear that this law in Utah will lead to people like me being harmed by not having anyone to really look up to for advice about the abormal feelings they're having.

Traditionally, the queer community has had to restart itself every generation because of how much it is villified and shut down by the constabulary. Millenials are one of the first generations to be able to get queer advice from the generation before them. Gen Z has grown up with the expectation that this would be continued for the next generations and has been working to create better spaces.

There is no good solution for this. The people in power can't understand queer desires to be authentic about themselves, so they fall back on trying to shut down any attempt at expressing individuality, like was done to them. If anything, you can view this level of desire to control kids as a trauma response to a changing world that is leaving them behind.

At the same time though, the internet really is dangerous for kids. You don't really know who anyone is. People being anonymous combined with a very very small percentage of people who actually want to cause harm (probably 0.01% at most) mean that for many kids it's probably not safe to be dumped onto the internet wholesale. My parents had a web filter that attempted to protect me against all of the horrors of the internet (I worked around if with Tor, this ended up causing me to learn everything that I know about networking), mostly because there are horrors on the internet like 4chan where it wasn't abnormal to witness beheadings for a while.

Kids in queer spaces have been a liability for a long time, but mostly a social one. Kids aren't always the most composed and emotionally mature, which can cause conflict. It's frustrating that it's now becoming a legal liability, not just a moderation liability. I've had to have the conversation with a kid's parents about discovering real child grooming more times than my therapist is comfortable with (bless her heart).

This law is not going to protect kids from social media communities. It's just going to teach them to use VPNs. This law will rip people away from communities that actually support them when their parents won't. This law will just cut Utah off the internet as a whole because it's going to just make trying to serve anyone there who might be a kid a legal and logistical clusterfuck.

I wouldn't be surprised if such cutoffs from social media companies will just result in more pain and agony, the same kind of pain and agony they are trying to prevent with the law.

But, then again, the cruelty is the point, isn't it? Why should kids have a mind of their own and agency when it is so much simpler to just view them as property that can't control anything for themselves?

Or is the queer community just going to move to LinkedIn because there seems to be an explicit carve-out for LinkedIn?

I don't talk to my parents much anymore. It's enough that they're worried, but I find it's easier for my mental health to just mark their messages as read and move on with my life than trying to deal with that tightly wound ball of trauma. This shit probably won't go away until they're dead.

Maybe even after. Trauma is a bitch.

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