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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Meléndez Ortiz urges passage of social media curbs for minors

By The Star Staff

At-large lawmaker and resident commissioner hopeful José Enrique “Quiquito” Meléndez Ortiz, asked the island Senate on Monday to urgently attend to House Bill (HB) 262, which establishes 16 years as the minimum age for a person to activate an account on any social media platform.

HB 262 was approved by the House of Representatives on Nov. 9, 2022 with 37 votes in favor. The measure has been under evaluation by the Senate Judiciary Committee since Nov. 11 of last year.

The New Progressive Party legislator’s measure also seeks, among other things, parental approval for minors up to the age of 18 to open accounts on social media platforms with all available security filters, something that currently happens only rarely.

“The use of social media such as Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat, among others, is a matter of responsibility for parents and their children,” Meléndez Ortiz said. “We believe that there must be a minimum age for these young people to enter the networks, and that age is 16 years old with parental supervision. This issue is one that the U.S. Congress is working on. In May, a group of senators, both Republicans and Democrats, filed a bill to set the minimum age that a minor can enter social networks at 13. This happens as a direct consequence of the adult content that minors are exposed to, even with the available filters. The famous ‘challenges’ and the crudeness of much graphic material has made Congress act, as they have determined that it is a matter of the mental health of our children. Here in Puerto Rico we have the tool to confront this, HB 262.”

Meléndez Ortiz visited Congress on multiple occasions this year to, among other issues, discuss greater controls on minors for access to social networks, including guidance to parents and/or guardians on the risks posed by social media platforms.

“This bill in no way intends for the government to intervene in the personal affairs of any person, but rather seeks to create a framework for parents and/or guardians to act to prevent minors from being targeted by materials aimed at adults,” the lawmaker said.

“The state of Montana, which earlier this year passed legislation to ban the use of Tik Tok on all devices, the first jurisdiction nationwide to do so, is now evaluating raising the minimum age for young people to have their social media accounts from 13 to 18,” Meléndez Ortiz added. “This is something that is happening in Europe, Asia and the United States; the protection of the mental health of young people is imperative, which is why we reiterate our request to the Senate to approve this bill now.”

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