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Could Texas become the first state to ban minors from social media?

State Rep. Jared Patterson (R-Frisco) envisions a bill that treats social media companies similarly to how the law has treated cigarette companies that target kids

FRISCO, Texas — It has become one of the most pressing debates in the life of a modern parent: When should you allow your children access to social media? And, once they have social media, what's the best way to go about limiting children's use of it?

Well, one Texas Republican is trying to eliminate the guesswork for parents. In fact, he wants to all-out ban any child under the age of 18 from using social media at all.

For a few weeks now, State Rep. Jared Patterson (R-Frisco) has been stumping -- on social media, perhaps ironically -- for a bill he's proposing in which all the major social media companies would face penalties for targeting children to use their services

The idea, Patterson says, is similar in concept to how it has been made disadvantageous for cigarette companies to advertise to kids following the Surgeon General report on smoking in 1964.

On this week's episode of Y'all-itics, Patterson joins the Jasons to further discuss his proposal.

Over the course of their chat, Patterson and the Jasons touch on everything from the First Amendment and parental rights to why the state legislator thinks parents stand no chance against the algorithms that social media companies are using the target their children. 

"We have a crisis -- a mental health crisis -- with our young people," Patterson says in this week's episode. "And I believe that the artificial intelligence, the machine-learned algorithms [and] these teams of engineers and even the child psychologists that these social media companies hire to target our kids, to hook our kids and to keep them on their product longer, I think that those things are very dangerous to our kids. I think those are the conversations we need to be having in a very public way."

The lawmaker says he plans to introduce this bill during the next Texas Legislature session in January.

And, while he doesn’t think any social media companies will send representatives to a joint committee hearing on the matter that's also being planned next month, he's ready for a fight on the topic -- even if, he says, it might not seem like something that on the surface appears to be up his alley.

"I'm the fifth-most conservative member of the Texas House," Patterson says. "I'm for limited government. I don't want the government overstepping their bounds here. But, again, I would submit to you that parents don't stand a chance against these algorithms, artificial intelligence. [Those things] are getting better literally every single day. They are learning about patterns of how long you land over a video, how long you look at a picture, what you like, what you dislike, what time of the day that you're using social media. They are constantly learning, constantly evolving, and we don't stand a chance against it."

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