Searching for Scapegoats For His Own Failings, Eric Adams Happens On 'Social Media
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New York Mayor Eric Adams is not letting minor issues like crimeunemploymentrat-infested subways, and people confusing public sidewalks for restrooms keep him from addressing the big threat facing New Yorkers: social media.

In his 2024 State of the City address, Adams accused social media companies of creating a “public health crisis” amongst children that justifies government action. The same day Adams delivered his address, New York City’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene released guidance on social media that referred to social media sites as an “environmental hazard.” The guidance recommends that parents establish “tech free times” in relevant settings that encourage in-person connection as well as “modeling healthy social media use, including sharing use practices and how to be thoughtful with use." The task force also calls on parents to not give their children a cell phone or other device that can access social media until the child is at least 14. In other words, the New York City government spent taxpayer money to distribute a document telling parents how to parent.

Mayor Adams and his “Mental Hygiene” department are not satisfied with just issuing guidance. They want state and federal legislation protecting children from the threat of big tech. Adams says what is needed is a nationwide effort, led by the Surgeon General, designed to protect children from social media similar to the past efforts to protect them from tobacco and guns.

One of the many problems with government regulation of social media is that it imposes a “one-size-fits all” model on children. This model assumes that all children develop at the same rate. As anyone who spent any time around children knows, this is not the case. Some children are capable of safely using social media at a very young age. while others may not be able to handle a Facebook or X account until they are 16 or older. Parents are uniquely qualified to decide when their children are mature enough for social media. After all, unlike politicians and bureaucrats, parents know their children’s names.

Some parents may want to expose their children to social media before age 14 so the parents can help their child learn how to get full benefits from social media while avoiding the dangers of the internet. Depriving parents of the ability to help their young child learn safe online habits could put the children at greater risk when they are legally allowed to use social media free of adult supervision. 

Forbidding children under age 14 from using social media may adversely affect education by preventing teachers and school administrators from using the internet to enhance education. Even if legislation allowed for exceptions for educational purposes, there is still the possibility the law may provide an excuse for government to monitor and harass private and home schools.

In his State of the City speech Mayor Adams referred to “our children”, implying that the government has an equal or even greater role to play in the raising of children as parents. This belief is incompatible with a free society as it justifies an unlimited expansion of government control of families. If Eric Adams can tell parents when they should allow their children on social media, why shouldn’t Adams also tell parents when they should put their children to bed?

Sadly, but not surprisingly, Mayor Adams is hardly the only politician in America using the moral panic over children’s social media habits to justify infringing on parental authority. Legislation has been proposed in several states restricting children’s access to social media. There is also federal legislation creating a national standard for when children can use social media. At a recent hearing on the issue, Senator Lindsey Graham elevated the discourse by telling META CEO and creator of Facebook Mark Zuckerberg and other big tech CEOs in attendance “you have blood on your hands.”

The only people who benefit from government-imposed “limits” on children’s ability to use social media are demagogic politicians like Lindsey Graham, power-hungry bureaucrats, and lazy parents who would be pleased to let the government do the hard work of telling their children that they cannot have unrestricted internet access. As the great Frank Zappa said when he was battling an effort led by Tipper Gore to “label”records with “offensive” lyrics, “a lot of people who cry out for government intervention or, as Tipper Gore called them,'consumer tools,' to help raise and control their children are people who are just too lazy to do it themselves.…Grandma never would have put up with this shit."

Charles Sauer (@CharlesSauer ) is the president of the Market Institute. He has previously worked on Capitol Hill, for a governor, and for an academic think tank.

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