Social Networks

Florida advances law banning children under 16 from using social media

Author: Editors Desk Source: The Guardian
January 25, 2024 at 15:54
Florida is one of several states that has taken action recently to limit teenagers’ exposure to social media. Photograph: The Good Brigade/Getty Images
Florida is one of several states that has taken action recently to limit teenagers’ exposure to social media. Photograph: The Good Brigade/Getty Images

Bill would prohibit teenagers from creating an account, and is now headed to the state’s Republican-controlled senate

Florida lawmakers advanced a bill on Wednesday that would prohibit social media platforms from allowing young teens to have an account while requiring everyone else to verify their age.

The measure prohibits anyone under 16 from creating a new social media account and requires platforms to delete existing accounts held by minors who are younger than 16. It also would require social media companies to delete any personal information from the accounts and for the platforms to use a “nongovernmental, independent, third-party not affiliated with the social media platform” to verify users’ age.

The bill passed the Florida house with a bipartisan 106-13 vote and now heads to the Republican-controlled senate.

“These dopamine hits [from social media] are so addictive, it’s like a digital fentanyl,” Fiona McFarland, a Republican state lawmaker who cosponsored the legislation, said on the house floor on Wednesday, according to Politico. “And even the most plugged-in parent or attuned teen has a hard time shutting the door against these addictive features.”

Vivek Murthy, the US surgeon general, released a warning last year about the dangers of social media for kids. While he said more research was needed to fully understand the effects, “there are ample indicators that social media can also have a profound risk of harm to the mental health and wellbeing of children and adolescents”.

The bill does not name which platforms specifically the bill would apply to but says it would apply to anything that “utilizes addictive, harmful, or deceptive design features, or any other feature that is designed to cause an account holder to have an excessive or compulsive need to use or engage with the social media platform”.

Florida is one of several states that has taken action recently to limit teenagers’ exposure to social media. Last year, Utah became the first state in the country to ban people under 18 from using social media without consent from a guardian. The state also prohibits minors from using a social media account from 10.30pm to 6.30am. An industry trade group is currently suing Utah over the law.

Other states have required the platforms to undertake measures such as children safety assessments and requiring a change in the algorithms that are served to minors. New York City also declared social media a “public health hazard” on Wednesday.

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Betsy Reed, Editor Headshot for Guardian US Epic
Betsy Reed
Editor, Guardian US

 

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