Social Media Addiction and the Youth Mental Health Crisis
As young people, we see firsthand how addictive social media algorithms are making our generation isolated and depressed. Social media platforms are designed to keep users on for as long as possible, and use their massive amount of user data to show content that they know will keep users online. Worse, platforms promote eating disorders and political extremism by showing users an endless feed of extreme content designed to prey on their insecurities.
We are advocating for legislation that will put a stop to youth social media addiction by preventing platforms from collecting the user data that they use to keep users on the platform and recommend extreme content that preys on users insecurities. We worked with experts across the country to craft H.644 which was introduced by a bipartisan group of legislators in the NC General Assembly in April 2023 and received over 62 cosponsors, over half of the NC House members.
We also assembled a broad coalition of nonprofit partners supporting this bill, including NC Child, the NC Association of Educators, Benchmarks NC, the Carolina Resource Center for Eating Disorders, Young Americans Protest, and the National Association of Social Workers NC Chapter.
Our work was covered in Spectrum News, the News & Observer, WRAL, the Charlotte Observer, and Chapelboro.
Ending Child Marriage
We worked with a wide coalition of activists, politicians, and nonprofits to advocate for an end to predatory child marriages in North Carolina. Prior to our work, adults would come to North Carolina as a place to legally coerce children into forced marriages.
We played a supporting role in developing the legislation in meetings with to end child marriage by helping to craft language that would be effective and acceptable to politicians.
We also lobbied legislators through phone banking (organizing students to call key legislators in support of the bill) and helping to organize other student-led groups to support the effort, as well as going to the General Assembly to lobby legislators with the coalition.
As a result, the NC General Assembly passed legislation to raise the marriage age to 16, require that the age gap of the people to be married is no more than four years, and create safeguards like a waiting period and parental permission.
Youth Driver’s Licensing
When legislation was proposed to reduce the year-long period where students must have a permit before they can get their license, we were asked for our thoughts given our work on youth/student issues.
We conducted research on the issue, examining the data and meeting with traffic safety experts, and found that the proposed changes could result in increased youth fatalities from having less experienced drivers on the road.
We worked with the experts to craft an alternative approach that would achieve the bill’s intent of being convenient for families while also avoiding an increase in traffic fatalities. We then advocated for the NC General Assembly to amend the bill to reflect these improvements.
As a result of our advocacy, the bill was limited to expire at the end of the year, addressing driver’s licensing inconveniences coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic while not creating a permanent increase in traffic fatalities. The bill was passed into law in this form.