Florida’s Governor Is Banning Children From Using Social Media

Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida has greenlit a new law aimed at regulating how children use social media, all in a bid to shield them from the possible mental health pitfalls linked to online platforms. According to this law, kids under 14 are forbidden from having their own social media accounts, while those aged 14 and 15 require their parents’ nod of approval.

To ensure compliance, social media platforms are obligated to shut down accounts belonging to underage users and put in place verification processes handled by third parties. Originally, there was talk of an outright ban for those under 16, but the bill underwent changes to include parental consent, with DeSantis stressing the importance of parental rights in this decision.

Expected to kick in on January 1, 2025, this law underscores worries about how excessive social media use can harm children’s mental health, leading to concerns like anxiety and depression.

While proponents of the bill applaud its potential to mitigate these risks, critics contend that it encroaches upon First Amendment liberties and parental authority. Meta, the corporate parent of popular social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook, has opposed the legislation, citing apprehensions regarding parental discretion and data privacy. Instead, Meta has advocated for federal legislation governing online application stores as a more appropriate solution.

“Social media harms children in a variety of ways,” DeSantis said in a statement. He said the legislation “gives parents a greater ability to protect their children.”

The bill targets social media platforms featuring elements like infinite scrolling, reaction metrics, auto-play videos, live-streaming, and push notifications, exempting those primarily facilitating email, messaging, or texting. It mandates social media companies to permanently delete personal data from terminated accounts and allows parents to pursue civil lawsuits against non-compliant entities.

Following Utah’s example in March 2023, Florida now joins a cohort of states implementing laws to oversee children’s access to social media. This trend, mirrored by states like Arkansas, Louisiana, Ohio, and Texas, highlights mounting apprehensions regarding social media’s effects on youth. It underscores the necessity for legislative actions to tackle these concerns.

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