The advent of the internet has forever changed the childhood experience. Today’s youth have never lived in a world where they could not access information and interact with people and ideas from around the world. This has created a Pandora’s box for many families and child advocates, who openly and regularly complain about the time kids spend online, content they access, and their own ability to master and regulate technology faster than kids are learning how to use it. Local politicians, looking to show they’re being responsive to a concern or hot topic, have begun flooding state legislative houses with bills to show they’re doing something—anything—to turn back time a bit and make the lives of families and other adults who care for preteens and teens a little easier.

Some of the legislation they’ve introduced include mandating that websites and social media companies verify users’ age and limit the use of algorithms that tailor content for users below a certain age. However, though well intentioned, these attempts often fail to prevent the harms that people are most concerned about and instead prevents innovation that can empower both parents and children to use the internet and social media responsibly and be protected from the risks it poses. They also give parents a false sense of security and discourage parental oversight, placing government in loco parentis.

Age verification necessitates data collection, and users of all ages will have to submit sensitive information in order to validate their age. Ultimately, this process will do the opposite of what people want—it will mean that users have even less privacy because they have to submit to face recognition, ID submission, or the turning over of personal information before they can participate in their platform of choice.

Another measure often suggested is limiting the use of algorithmic suggestions. The mysterious “algorithm” is often blamed for a litany of evils. The reality is that getting rid of algorithms won’t cure issues that many have with social media sites. Algorithms aren’t just used to give you an advertisement for a coffee pot because you follow a few cafes; they are also the mechanism by which relevant (i.e., age appropriate) content is recommended. The same algorithm blamed for promoting harmful images is the one that has the ability to tailor content best suited for a younger audience and deter inappropriate or unsuitable content for minors. Rather than getting rid of algorithms or asking companies to seriously limit their technology for younger users, parents can evaluate the multitude of available resources that help to customize content and select what they feel best aligns with their values and priorities.

Apart from specific laws, the state approach in general proves impossible and ineffective. When state lawmakers impose regulations on global companies, a patchwork of differing laws and regulations emerge. Resources to innovate end up being used on figuring out how to modify products and platforms to comply with every individual state’s requirements, a feat that is impossible for smaller startups.

In addition to discouraging innovation, the pricing out of startups via expensive compliance also means that products that parents can use to be involved and protective of their children’s social media use may never leave the ground. The end result? Kids and parents never get to benefit from tools that could help them, and tech companies are left to navigate an ever-shifting regulatory landscape instead of being able to focus on innovating to meet the needs and concerns of their consumers. No one wins.

Thankfully, parents are not left to navigate the murky waters of adolescence and social media alone. Many tools exist and are currently being developed to help mitigate risks associated with the internet and social media. In order to protect children, privacy, and innovation, some degree of regulation by the federal government, which governs interstate commerce, is necessary, and Congress is currently considering legislation to do just that. A state-by-state patchwork will never be able to achieve what empowered parents and technology companies with clear regulatory guidelines will be able to.