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The Tennessee Conservative [By Adelia Kirchner] –
The Youth Mental Health Safety Act, which aims to protect children by blocking harmful content on electronic devices registered to minors within the state of Tennessee, has officially been deferred to next year.
According to Sen. Hensley, this Act would require manufacturers of electronic devices such as smartphones and tablets to automatically enable a filter that already exists but is turned off by default, which prevents minors from accessing or downloading inappropriate material.
It was made clear during the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee’s bill hearing on March 20th, that parents and families would still be fully capable of turning this filter off if they so choose.
Founder and Policy Director of The National Decency Coalition, Ricky Darr, gave testimony in front of the committee and noted that the legislation would not be violating the Dormant Commerce Clause because there is no comparable in-state business, and it would not be violating the constitution because adults would still be allowed access and control over the filter.
When legislators questioned how this would be implemented in one specific area like Tennessee, Darr responded saying, “Chromebooks have done this for schools, so it can be done. It can be honed in on a certain territory.”
“The state also has a compelling interest to protect children from exposure to pornography,” he added, referencing Ginsberg v. New York (1968).
Another testimony was given by Co-Founder of Parents Who Fight, Sarah Siegand.
“We began our journey to protect kids in 2014 after learning that numbers of our children’s elementary school classmates had already been exposed to pornography,” she said.
The committee listened as Sarah shared the concerns of middle school parents in the Nashville area who had discovered their children were downloading the Chrome app, accessing adult websites, deleting it, and repeating that cycle in order to hide that activity from their parents.
“We need updated and robust laws at the federal and state levels that will require technology companies to exercise a duty of care for the youngest and most vulnerable in our homes, our children,” Sarah declared.
To avoid actually failing the bill in committee, Sen. Steve Southerland (R-Morristown-District 9) requested on behalf of the House sponsor that they move the bill to the legislature’s 2024 calendar.
“Maybe most parents need to get the Jitterbug or whatever,” Chairman Paul Bailey (R-Sparta-District 15) suggested in closing.
Parents across the country are struggling, whether they know it or not, with this unprecedented aspect of parenting. Many children now have an accessibility to harmful content that their parents were never exposed to at that age.
Despite what some folks may think, teenagers aren’t saving up for Jitterbugs or pre-paid flip phones. They’re saving up for iPhones and other high-quality devices that keep up with the social, educational, and economic factors of today’s cultural climate.
Locking down devices for the protection of children remains a complicated process that could have been made much simpler for Tennessee parents had this legislation been passed.
About the Author: Adelia Kirchner is a Tennessee resident and reporter for the Tennessee Conservative. Currently the host of Subtle Rampage Podcast, she has also worked for the South Dakota State Legislature and interned for Senator Bill Hagerty’s Office in Nashville, Tennessee. You can reach Adelia at firstname.lastname@example.org.