New bill involving social media use by children passes through Florida House of Representatives

Apps dangerous for children

According to Reuters, the U.S. Florida House of Representatives approved a bill aimed at preventing teenagers under 16 from using social media platforms. The bill passed 106:13. The Guardian reported that the House voted to require social media platforms to terminate the accounts of any users under 16. They will also need to use third-party verification systems to screen minors.

social media use by children

The bill would require companies to “permanently delete” personal data collected from terminated accounts. It would also allow parents to bring civil lawsuits against companies that fail to enforce that requirement.¬†The bill will be submitted to the Florida Senate for consideration.

Sponsors of the bill say¬†the move is to protect children from depression, anxiety and other mental health issues related to excessive use of social media. These have previously been criticized for making children “particularly susceptible” to the addictive nature of social media.¬†Opponents of the bill say it goes too far, with some calling for less restrictive measures. One such measure is¬†giving parents the option to allow or ban their children from using social media.

Comments from politicians and warnings from expert surgeon

Florida House Speaker Paul Renner said,

“We must address the harmful effects of social media platforms on the development and well-being of our children. Florida has a compelling interest and responsibility in protecting our children, their mental health, and their childhoods.”

According to Politico, Fiona McFarland, a Republican state lawmaker who co-sponsored the legislation, said on the house floor on Wednesday

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‚ÄúThese dopamine hits [from social media] are so addictive, it‚Äôs like a digital fentanyl … And even the most plugged-in parent or attuned teen has a hard time shutting the door against these addictive features.‚ÄĚ

According to NBC Miami, Rep. Kevin Chambliss, D-Homestead, said.

‚ÄúThe truth is, people use these platforms to prey on our children,‚ÄĚ

Last year, Vivek Murthy, the US surgeon general issued a warning about the danger of kids using social media. He said

‚Äúthere are ample indicators that social media can also have a profound risk of harm to the mental health and wellbeing of children and adolescents‚ÄĚ

Critics argue

Critics argue that the Florida bill banning children 16 and below from using social media is taken too far because it would violate the First Amendment and take away benefits some children receive from social media, such as connecting with family and friends and accessing educational resources. Opponents also argue that the bill would put Florida’s young people at a disadvantage compared to teens elsewhere. Also, some critics argue that the bill does not address the root causes of the problems associated with social media. Some of these issues include cyberbullying and addiction.

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Rep. Daryl Campbell, D-Fort Lauderdale,¬† called the bill a ‚Äúcomplete governmental overreach.‚ÄĚ

children playing video games

Final Words

The bill targets social media features that include “addictive, harmful or deceptive design features” or those that cause “excessive or compulsive use of or the need to interact with the platform.”¬†But it exempts a subset of websites or apps –¬†platforms whose primary function is email, messaging or text messaging, as well as streaming services, news, sports and entertainment sites, or online shopping, gaming and academic sites. Last year, Utah became the first state in the country to pass a law restricting teenagers’ access to social media. In March last year, Utah‚Äôs bill required minors under the age of 18 to obtain the consent of their guardians before using social media platforms.

This article cites sources from Reuters, The Guardian, Politico and NBC Miami. It also cites four politicians and one expert surgeon 

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