At parent-focused event, Youngkin takes aim at social media’s ‘destructive influence’
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At the latest of three “Parents Matter” town halls he’s hosting around Virginia ahead of pivotal General Assembly elections this fall, Gov. Glenn Youngkin hit on his usual themes of giving parents a bigger role in schools, raising expectations for student achievement and finding “multiple pathways” for young Virginians to start careers.
But one of the biggest topics of discussion over the roughly hour and a half Youngkin spent interacting with a crowd at a Henrico County elementary school was one that defies easy policy solutions: the impact of social media on children and teenagers.
“I do think this topic of social media and the … destructive influence that it is having on our children is one we all need to run to,” Youngkin said. “We have to run to educate ourselves. … Parents want more information so that they can engage more productively and more restrictively with their children on what’s happening in their social media life. That’s going to be a collective effort that we’re going to have to work on together.”
Both Youngkin and Sen. Siobhan Dunnavant, R-Henrico — the co-headliner for the event at Crestview Elementary School — linked social media to the broader issues of bullying and youth mental health struggles.
Dunnavant, whose blue-tilting district in the Richmond suburbs has made her one of the most endangered Republican incumbents of the 2023 election cycle, said the solution to parental concerns about social media will probably be “a multitude of things,” including anti-bullying hotlines and a closer look at the data-driven algorithms popular apps like TikTok use to serve up images and videos to young viewers.
As the two political figures took questions from parents concerned about strangers contacting their children on Instagram, the challenge of disappearing messages on Snapchat and the seeming futility of trying to control what kids do online, Dunnavant and Youngkin repeatedly returned to the overarching message of parental empowerment.
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