Executive order targets social media use among New Hampshire children

Published: Jun. 8, 2023 at 5:22 PM EDT
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LEBANON, N.H. (WCAX) - A new executive order in New Hampshire signed by Gov. Chris Sununu targets social media use among kids. The findings will eventually be implemented in schools across the state.

The executive order does several things. One, it calls on the attorney general to investigate the possible harmful effects of social media. Two, ultimately, it will create a curriculum to teach about those effects to students in the classroom.

“Kids know candy is rotting their teeth but they eat it anyway,” said Patrick Kennelly, a Lebanon dad who would know. He has seven kids, including his youngest who’s almost 2. She’s not into screens right now, but that’s not the case for his teenagers.

“Yeah, it’s concerning and we have to be a little strict about it but we are probably not strict enough,” Kennelly said.

New Hampshire is taking a closer look at online behavior. The investigation will focus on what negative impacts social media has on young people. But the experts say it’s important to remember that social media-- and technology in general-- is not all bad.

“If we demonize it entirely, we are going to lose this battle,” said Dr. Steve Schlozman, a psychiatrist with Dartmouth Health Children’s.

Schlozman says kids are more likely to be drawn into online activity but says very few conclusive studies are out there about what that means for a child’s development.

“I do think there is a higher rate of conditions such as depression and anxiety among people who are frequent social media users. But, that’s not the same thing as saying that frequent social media use leads to those conditions,” he said.

Schlozman supports the state’s efforts to learn more about online behavior saying the data will be key to educating kids down the road.

“We know this is an issue, we know it’s affecting young people and we know that the place where we can reach young people is in school,” Schlozman said.

Kennelly equates the executive order to a public service announcement and says it will support parents who already try to limit screen time.

“We are going to find out. It’s a giant experiment and we can see how it’s going in 50 years,” Kennelly said.

The Attorney General’s Office in New Hampshire is seeking input from the public as part of its investigation and the experts say, like many things in life, social media use ultimately comes down to moderation.

Click here to see the executive order.

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New Hampshire to investigate impact of social media on children