Written by: Audrey Williams – Current Senior at Olentangy High School
(Prevention Action Alliance is working with a group of students from Olentangy High School to promote their group project focusing on the issues associated with social media and teens and educating parents on Ohio House Bill 33)
Published: Dec. 11, 2023
On October 17, 2021, Braden Markus, a 15-year-old, was targeted on social media by a predator. After images were sent to who he believed to be a teenage girl, it quickly turned into a ransom. The predator threatened to post the pictures unless Braden paid them $1800. The messages continued back and forth for 27 minutes and resulted in Braden feeling so helpless that he took his own life.
In 27 minutes, everything can change. As a classmate of Braden Markus’s, I have seen what social media can be responsible for. The district and school were emotionally shocked when the news came out that Braden had passed. The days following his death were silent in the school, and Braden’s friends did not go to classes. Braden’s impact on people and the school continues to live on two years later. When the news was released that it was an outcome of sextortion, I realized that there needs to be more awareness surrounding social media and that it could lead to a life-or-death situation.
I got social media at the age of 12. In those years, I have been in contact with strangers and thought nothing of it, seen how people hide behind a screen and feel as though their actions are not related to them, gone to an anonymous chat room, and talked to strangers twice my age, and been contacted by old male predators through a direct message without warning.
There are no limits on social media, and being exposed to it at a young age has affected me. I’ve matured faster, feel like I’m more addicted to my phone than ever, and I’ve learned how to navigate being contacted by strangers. No 12-year-old should be used to talking to strangers online. People on social media are oblivious to what they are involved with. Communicating with strangers is completely normalized, and people partake in it without being aware of the impact it could have. One person, one message, one minute is all it takes.
Social media started as chat rooms and then progressed to Facebook. Since then, talking to strangers has played a large role in the experience created. People can create accounts under a completely different age, name, and location. Since the beginning of social media, everyone has lied about different aspects of themselves. This raises the problem: You can be anyone you want to be.
Ohio is implementing the Parental Notification Act on January 15, 2024.
- Requires parents/guardians to give children under the age of 16 consent when getting social media.
- Attempts to limit the effects of social media.
There are still ways for children to get around the Parental Notification Act. As said before, it is easy for people to lie on social media. While they hide behind a screen, any identity is possible.
Our project is to educate parents and guardians on the dangers of social media and what to consider when allowing their children to get social media.
The three main goals of our project are to:
- Educate parents/guardians on the issues teens face on social media.
- Educate parents/guardians on the Parental Notification Act.
- Increase parental involvement with children’s social media.
On July 5, 2023, Ohio Governor, Mike Dewine signed House Bill 33 into effect, but The Social Media Parental Notification Act will be carried out in January. Kids will be forced to get parental consent to have certain social media accounts. This is Ohio’s attempt to find a solution to the ongoing problems.
According to the United States Attorney’s Office, “Over 3,000 minor victims were targeted in the past year across the United States.” This statistic is one of many reasons proving that something needs to be done. Our goal over the next six weeks is to implement a plan to educate people about the dangers and issues of social media.
Our 6-week campaign will begin the week of December 11, 2023, and end January 19, 2024, and will explain a different focus each week from the following topics:
Click each topic to read the special edition Know! Tip
For more information on the Social Media Parental Notification Act visit the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services here. To follow our project, “27 minutes,” like/follow the Ohio Youth-Led Prevention Network and Prevention Action Alliance social media accounts.