In a recent State of the City address, Mayor Eric Adams of New York City ignited controversy by labeling social media as a “public health crisis” for children. Market Institute President Charles Sauer, a staunch advocate for free markets and individual liberty, challenges this narrative in his latest article in Real Clear Markets. He argues against government intrusion into parental decisions regarding children’s social media use. Join us as we explore Sauer’s compelling defense of parental rights in the face of growing calls for regulation. Discover why empowering parents—not politicians or bureaucrats—is crucial in navigating the digital landscape while safeguarding liberty and family values.

He writes:

“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?”

Read more at Real Clear Markets by clicking here.