The Minnesota Catholic Conference, the public policy voice of the Catholic Church in Minnesota, provides an occasional “Inside the Capitol” update during the state legislative session.
By Minnesota Catholic Conference
Social media use has increased tremendously over the last decade, especially among younger users. Much chatter has erupted around the country over the damaging content social media algorithms feed to our children and how these algorithms ought to be controlled.
To address this, the Minnesota Catholic Conference testified in support of a bill authored by Rep. Kristin Robbins and Sen. Roger Chamberlain (H.F. 3724 / S.F. 3933) that would prohibit the use of social media algorithms on children under 18. Studies show that 89 percent of teens are online either “almost constantly” or “several times per day.” Numerous examples of social harms from such high rates of social media and internet use have emerged, including a growing link between TikTok content and an increase in eating disorders among teen girls.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches, “Users should practice moderation and discipline in their approach to the mass media. They will want to form enlightened and correct consciences more easily to resist unwholesome influences” (CCC, #2496). Since our children’s brains are still developing, we should take responsibility by monitoring their media time and limiting Big Tech’s control over their minds.
Increasing penalties for child predators
Another troubling issue facing our state is the prevalence of child predators who evade reasonable sentences for their crimes. Producing, viewing, or disseminating child pornography in any format is abhorrent behavior that should never be tolerated. Additional steps need to be taken to discourage this behavior so that we can better protect our children and hold accountable those responsible for their exploitation.
That is why we have expressed support for two bills authored by Rep. Matt Grossell, H.F. 3881 and H.F. 3925. The first would strengthen the penalty for offenders by modestly increasing mandatory minimums for those involved in possession, distribution and production of child imagery. The second would require that those who receive a stay of adjudication for certain crimes be registered as a sex offender.
The Catholic Church takes a strong stance against pornography: “[Pornography] does grave injury to the dignity of its participants . . . It is a grave offense. Civil authorities should prevent the production and distribution of pornographic materials” (CCC, #2354). The Church calls on civil authorities to take a stronger stance as well.
We recognize that work has been done in this area at the Legislature over the years, but unfortunately child imagery possession and dissemination is still too prevalent in our culture. It is important that we work to protect our vulnerable children and more reasonably tailor the prison sentence for these offenders to their respective crime.
Predatory online sports gambling has made its way through the House and will be up for vote on the House floor soon. Please urge your legislator to vote “no” on this bill and to resist the push by gambling companies to bring anytime, anywhere sports gambling to Minnesota. Take action now: https://www.mncatholic.org/action_15311.