Wednesday, March 27, 2024

Parents, Florida Knows Best

Joanna Pearlstein in The New York Times on the mixed-up, dangerous, and unconstitutional priorities of Gov. Batsin D. Belfry:

Parents know what’s best for their kids, except when the State of Florida does.

When Florida passed a law prohibiting children younger than 14 from having social media accounts, lawmakers crowed about the move, claiming they had to act because children don’t have the brain development to see the harm in addictive platforms.

In other words, under the new law, even if parents want their tweens to have a social media account, they’re out of luck. Florida knows better. (The state doesn’t allow parents to decide about the merits of gender-affirming care for their kids either.)

But Florida is happy to let parents make decisions about other matters of vital importance to children’s well-being. Consider: When measles broke out in an elementary school in Weston in February, Florida’s surgeon general, Dr. Joseph Ladapo, let parents determine whether to keep their unvaccinated children at home.

Those measles cases “received disproportionate attention for political reasons,” according to a March 8 statement from the Florida Department of Health. Or maybe it was statistical ones: So far this year the United States has recorded 64 cases of measles (more than in all of 2023); 11 of those were in Florida. Meaning that a state with 6.5 percent of the nation’s population has hosted 17.2 percent of its measles cases.

Still: “Once again, Florida has shown that good public health policy includes personal responsibility and parents’ rights,” said Gov. Ron DeSantis in the March 8 statement. About 92 percent of students in Florida are fully vaccinated, according to health officials; the state is one of 45 that let parents skip their children’s shots for religious or moral reasons.

Because measles is so transmissible — nine of 10 unvaccinated people in a room will get the disease if one infected person sneezes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — scientists estimate that 95 percent of a population needs to be immunized in order to achieve herd immunity.

Protecting children from social media is a laudable goal. It won’t be easy to kick children off social media platforms; the tech companies acknowledge they don’t really know how old their users are, and they’ve yet to fully roll out long-promised age-verification systems.

That leaves parents to rely on their elected officials, who have empowered themselves to safeguard children from digital boogeymen. But not viral ones.

How many kids have died from watching a video on Facebook?