Utah leads U.S in limiting teen social media use
Mar 28, 2023
The governor announced the signing of two comprehensive bills aimed at safeguarding the youth of the state
Utah Leads in U.S. Legislation: Mandating Parental Consent for Minors and Age Verification for Social Media Users.
These legislations will grant parents complete access to their children’s digital accounts, encompassing both posts and private messages. This action is taken in light of the growing apprehension surrounding the influence of social media on the mental health of young individuals.
As of Thursday, the newly implemented laws dictate that explicit permission from a parent or guardian is required for minors to establish accounts on platforms such as Instagram, Facebook, and TikTok.
Enforcing social media curfews with parental controls
The legislation additionally enforces a social media curfew, restricting children’s access from 22:30 to 06:30, with the option for parental adjustments. Under the new laws, social media corporations will be prohibited from collecting children’s data or targeting them for advertising purposes.
Effective from March 1, 2024, these two bills also aim to simplify the process of pursuing legal action against social media firms. Governor Spencer Cox, a Republican, wrote on Twitter: “We’re no longer willing to let social media companies continue to harm the mental health of our youth. “As leaders, and parents, we have a responsibility to protect our young people.”
"A huge victory for kids and families in Utah"
Children’s advocacy organization Common Sense Media praised the governor’s initiative to limit certain addictive aspects of social media, labelling it a “huge victory for kids and families in Utah.”
Jim Steyer, founder and CEO of Common Sense Media, stated, “It adds momentum for other states to hold social media companies accountable to ensure kids across the country are protected online.” Similar legislation is being deliberated in four other Republican-led states – Arkansas, Texas, Ohio, and Louisiana – as well as Democratic-led New Jersey.
However, Common Sense Media and other advocacy groups cautioned that some aspects of the new laws could potentially endanger children. Ari Z Cohn, a free speech attorney for TechFreedom, highlighted the bill’s “significant free speech problems.”
“There are so many children who might be in abusive households,” he told the BBC, “who might be LGBT, who could be cut-off from social media entirely.” In response, Meta, the parent company of Facebook, stated that it possesses robust tools designed to protect children’s safety.
Bipartisan support for US legislation targetting social media giants
A spokesperson informed the BBC: “We’ve developed more than 30 tools to support teens and families, including tools that let parents and teens work together to limit the amount of time teens spend on Instagram, and age verification technology that helps teens have age-appropriate experiences.”
There has been bipartisan support in the U.S. for legislation targeting social media with the goal of safeguarding children. In his State of the Union address in February, President Joe Biden advocated for laws prohibiting tech companies from collecting data on minors.
Last year, California state legislators passed their own child data law. The California Age-Appropriate Design Code Act, among other provisions, mandates digital platforms to set the highest privacy features for users under 18 as the default setting. The enactment of the Utah bills aligns with a challenging congressional hearing for TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew.