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Here’s why he wants to ban TikTok for under 18

Gov. Glenn Youngkin wants to ban the popular social media app TikTok for anyone under the age of 18, as concerns mount that social media is causing a host of psychological problems in children and adolescents. 

If approved, it would be a significant move to limit the world’s most used social media platform. 

John Littell, Youngkin’s secretary of Health and Human Resources, told the State Board of Health that TikTok uses “addictive” and “aggressive” tools to hook young viewers. 

Legislators will introduce multiple bills next month to address TikTok and the mechanisms used by all social media companies. 

A video-based medium, TikTok is the most used app, with more than 1 billion active users worldwide. 

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John Littell, Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s secretary of Health and Human Resources, told the State Board of Health that TikTok uses “addictive” and “aggressive” tools to hook young viewers.

According to the U.S. Surgeon General, 95% of teens use social media, and one-third report using it “almost constantly.”

On average, teenagers spend three and a half hours a day on social media. Children and adolescents who spend more than three hours a day there face twice the risk of mental health problems, including depression and anxiety. 

To enforce the ban, state leaders would work with providers such as Apple and parents, Littell said. The law ultimately would impose penalties on TikTok if it fails to adequately restrict minors’ access to the platform in Virginia, said Macaulay Porter, a spokesperson for the governor. 

A bill would have to gain approval in a Democratic-controlled legislature to become law. In the November legislative elections Democrats gained control of the House of Delegates and maintained control of the Senate.

A complete ban of TikTok might not be effective, Littell said – users would simply move to Instagram.

State employees banned from TikTok, We Chat on state devices

Earlier this year, Montana passed a law to ban TikTok completely, but a federal judge blocked the law before it could take effect. The judge said the measure “likely violates the First Amendment.”

No state has tried banning it for minors, Littell said, a measure Youngkin’s administration believes would prevail against legal challenges. 

“A lot of states are thinking about it,” Littell added. “We’ll have a very robust conversation in the General Assembly.” 

Last week, 22 attorneys general urged the U.S. Supreme Court to make clear that states have the authority to regulate social media platforms. 

The problem with TikTok, Littell said, is its addictive and aggressive nature that is often unknown to parents. 

Videos play automatically without the user needing to hit a button. The app employs gamification, Littell said, an online marking technique used to encourage engagement with a product by creating a scoring system or having users compete against one another. Like many apps, TikTok tracks a user’s behavior. 

“In a sense, TikTok is not the only one doing it,” Littell said. “They’re just the most aggressive.” 

Data concerns also hang over TikTok, which is owned by a Chinese technology firm called ByteDance Ltd. Some worry the company could be forced to hand over its data to the Chinese government. Last year, Youngkin banned the use of TikTok and WeChat on state-owned devices and state-run wireless networks. 

Carlyle Group, the private equity firm once co-led by Youngkin, is an investor in ByteDance. 

Youngkin has made other efforts to safeguard minors on the web. Earlier this year, he signed a bill requiring pornography sites to verify whether a user is 18. But many of those sites are not complying with the law, the Virginia Mercury reported.

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