Chair Stephenson and Members of the Committee,
My name is Maggee Hangge, and I am here today on behalf of the Minnesota Catholic Conference, the public policy voice of the Catholic Church in Minnesota, to share our support of H.F. 1503.
It is vital for teen development that we prohibit the use of algorithms that feeds inappropriate or unfiltered content and cultivate addictive behavior. Limiting the impact of social media provides a concrete step towards mitigating these evidential harms during teens’ most formative years.
Ninety-five percent of teens ages 13 to 17 have access to a smartphone, 45 percent say they are online “almost constantly,” and another 44 percent say they are on the internet several times a day, according to a 2018 Pew Research Study. A 2023 report by the CDC, exposed that “nearly three in five teenage girls felt persistent sadness in 2021. And one in three girls seriously considered attempting suicide, up 60% from a decade ago.” In addition, youth who spend the most time on social media reportedly have a 13 to 66% higher depression rate.
It is not a secret that the increased use of social media has contributed to these feelings of sadness, anxiety, and depression. The goal for these algorithms is to keep users engaged in the platform for as long as possible, which in turn gives a false fabrication of connectedness and reality.
The way the algorithms are set up, we get fed what we see or click on. So, with TikTok, if you linger on a video for even a short period of time, the algorithm will take note and feed you additional similar content. This can be especially dangerous to youth if the content promotes suicide or self-harm, which it has been known to do. A December 2022 study showed that when teens create a TikTok account, it can take less than three minutes for them to see content related to suicide, and about five more minutes for them to find a community promoting eating disorders.
We should not be letting Big Tech and their accompanying algorithms shepherd the lives of our children. With the passage of H.F. 1503, we can limit the control these algorithms have over our teens and free them from the confines of social media giants who do not have their best interest in mind.
 Monica Anderson and Jingjing Jiang, “Teens, Social Media & Technology 2018,” Pew Research Center, May 31, 2018, available at: https://www.pewinternet.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/9/2018/05/PI_2018.05.31_TeensTech_FINAL.pdf