Author granted license

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International

Document Type

Working Paper

Publication Date





Social media afflicts minors with depression, anxiety, sleeplessness, addiction, suicidality, and eating disorders. States are legislating at a breakneck pace to protect children. Courts strike down every attempt to intervene on First Amendment grounds. This Article clears a path through this stalemate by leveraging two underappreciated frameworks: the latent regulatory power of parental authority arising out of family law, and a hidden family law within First Amendment jurisprudence. These two projects yield novel insights. First, the recent cases offer a dangerous understanding of the First Amendment, one that should not survive the family law reasoning we provide. First Amendment jurisprudence routinely defers to parental decisions, in contrast to emerging case law. Second, existing legislation fails to leverage family law to bypass First Amendment barriers. Lawmakers should refocus on legislating to empower parents to supervise their children meaningfully on social media, instead of focusing on harmful content itself. In the real world, parents enjoy nearly unlimited authority to decide how much privacy to afford a minor, what ideas may reach them, and who may contact them. The law supports parents in these efforts, and it can do so in the social media context as well. But it is essential for the state to identify this as the interest behind regulation, in order to survive First Amendment challenges. We conclude by proposing a Parental Decision-Making Registry that could reduce the enormous power of social media companies in the lives of minors while resting securely on law of the parent-child relationship.

Find on SSRN



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.