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Florida passes law restricting teen social media access

At a time when US federal government is pushing for a ban on TikTok, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has signed a law restricting children’s access to social media. The law will come into effect on January 1, 2025.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis on Monday signed into law a bill restricting social media access for minors, as concerns grow over the negative effects such platforms are having on teens in the United States.

The signing came barely two weeks after federal lawmakers in the House and Senate passed a bill that could see the Chinese-owned video platform TikTok banned in the US.

DeSantis on Monday said his administration is “trying to help parents navigate this very difficult terrain that we have now with raising kids.”

What we know so far

The law, which will go into effect on January 1, 2025, will bar Florida children 13 and under from having social media accounts, and 14- and 15-year-olds will need parental consent to use them.

“Governor Ron DeSantis signs HB3 to protect children from the harms of social media,” the Florida Representative wrote on his official X account, formerly Twitter.

Monday’s bill was a watered down version of one previously put forth by Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives Paul Renner that would have banned all children under 16 from social media.

The new version of the bill also dropped wording that detailed exactly how platforms would have to verify a user’s age. Though most social media platforms require users to be 13 or older, they do little in terms of enforcement.

The new law does not target any one company but is aimed at restricting access to platforms that use “addictive” features such as “likes,” push notifications, auto-play videos and those that encourage “infinite scrolling.”

According to Speaker Renner, social media is fraught with risks from traffickers and pedophiles. He also claimed “social media platforms have caused a devastating effect in the mental well being of our children.”

“Our bill is focused on addiction,” said Renner. “Unlike an adult who can make an adult decision… a child, in their brain development, doesn’t have the ability to know they are being sucked into these addictive technologies, and to see the harm and step away from it.”

Child protection vs. free speech: battle lines drawn

The law has sparked concern among those who fear it sets a precedent for restricting free speech online. 

At the same time, there has also been growing concern across the country about the effects of social media on child and teen development. While proponents claim the social media ban gives parents oversight in the matter, others say the government should stay out of such issues altogether.

Renner said he expects social media companies will, “sue the second after this is signed. But you know what? We’re going to beat them. We’re going to beat them and we’re never, ever going to stop.”

DeSantis, former Republican presidential candidate and a combative “culture warrior,” has seen similarly ambitious legislation overturned before. Just recently, for instance, a majority Republican appeals court struck down his signature 2022 “Stop Woke Act” for violating free speech rights.

Those opposing the new law, among them giant tech companies like Meta, say it not only violates free speech rights, it also strips away parental authority — something DeSantis and fellow Republicans claim to champion.

“This bill goes too far in taking away parents’ rights,” Democratic Representative Anna Eskamani said in a statement Monday. “Instead of banning social media access, it would be better to ensure improved parental oversight tools and improved access to data to stop bad actors — alongside major investments in Florida’s mental health systems and programs.”

Source: Dw

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