Steil-led bipartisan bill addresses new tech’s impact on children’s mental health

U.S. Rep. Bryan Steil (R-WI) on May 9 unveiled a bipartisan bill that would direct the Center for Mental Health Services to develop and disseminate a strategy to address the effects of new technologies on children’s mental health. 

“Experts on mental health need to come together to give parents, teachers, and children the tools they need to promote positive mental health and protect our nation’s children online,” Rep. Steil said. “This nonpartisan legislation is a step in the right direction for helping and protecting our children’s mental health.

The congressman sponsored the Protecting Young Minds Online Act, H.R. 3164, alongside original cosponsor U.S. Rep. Becca Balint (D-VT) to develop and implement a strategy that would help local communities address the effects of new technologies, such as social media, on children’s mental health, according to the text of the bill.

“I’m working to protect children from the negative effects of social media. The effect of that usage is causing children to suffer from depression, anxiety, and in worst cases self-harm and suicide at alarming rates,” said Rep. Steil. “Our federal agency tasked with addressing this crisis must have a strategy in place to meet this challenge.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s 2021 Youth Risk Behavior Survey, one in three teenage girls seriously considered attempting suicide and the rates of sadness are the highest reported in a decade. In total, roughly 900,000 youth aged 12-17 and 1.7 million adults attempted suicide and 12.3 million had serious thoughts of suicide in 2021.

“We are in the midst of a crisis of loneliness in this country and so many young people are relying on social media and technology for connection. But these tools can also have negative effects on our mental health,” said Rep. Balint. “I’m proud to introduce bipartisan legislation to take the important step of promoting positive use of social media while protecting our youth from the potentially dangerous consequences.”