Utah passes laws requiring parental permission for teens to use social media: Utah is the first state in the United States to approve legislation mandating parental consent for children to use social media. The bill, which Utah’s governor signed in March 2021, intends to protect children from online predators and other hazards linked with social media use. In this post, we will look more closely at the new Utah law, including its features, possible impact, and implications for other states considering similar legislation. We will also look at the larger problem of children’s social media use, as well as the responsibilities of parents, educators, and governments in assuring their online safety.
Utah passes laws requiring parental permission for teens to use social media
According to the new rule, social media businesses must get parental approval before enabling children to register accounts or use their services. Parents or legal guardians must also be able to monitor their child’s social media behaviour and, if required, deactivate their account. The law has spurred a discussion about the acceptable age for children to use social media, as well as the responsibility of parents in supervising their children’s online behaviour. The law’s supporters believe that it is vital to protect children from the potential downsides of social media, such as cyberbullying, online harassment, and exposure to unsuitable information. However, some claim that the rule may be difficult to police and may violate youngsters’ right to free expression and expression.
The two laws Cox signed also forbid those under 18 from using social media between the hours of 10:30 p.m. and 6:30 a.m., demand that anyone using social media in the state provide proof of their age, and prohibit tech companies from luring kids to their apps with addictive features. The limitations adopted by Utah’s Republican-majority Legislature are the most recent illustration of how politicians, particularly pro-business Republicans, are changing their attitudes towards technology businesses.
Politicians have started attempting to rein in internet behemoths like Facebook and Google because of concerns about user privacy, hate speech, misinformation, and adverse effects on teenage mental health. For more than ten years, these companies have expanded uncontrolled. On the same day that TikTok’s CEO testified before Congress on the app’s effects on kids’ mental health, Utah’s legislation was also signed. However, the federal legislative process has stalled, necessitating state intervention.
Social media companies would almost probably need to create new methods to comply with the laws that prohibit pitching adverts to minors and displaying them in search results, in addition to the parental consent regulations. Ads that are specifically targeted to users are how TikTok, Snapchat, and Meta, the company that owns Facebook and Instagram, make the majority of their revenue.
Along with New Jersey, other Republican states including Arkansas, Texas, Ohio, and Louisiana are debating similar bills. While this is going on, California approved legislation last year requiring internet firms to put children’s safety first by forbidding them from profiling children or using personal information in ways that might harm them physically or psychologically.
The laws in Utah and other states are silent on how the new limits would be applied, however. Companies are already prohibited from collecting data on children under the age of 13 without parental consent under the federal Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act. Social media companies presently forbid children under the age of 13 from registering on their platforms as a result. However, minors may simply get around this restriction, both with and without their parents’ approval. According to Cox, studies have shown that children’s “poor mental health outcomes” are a result of their time spent on social media.
Children’s advocacy organisations mostly applauded the policy, with certain limitations. A NGO that advocates for children and technology, Common Sense Media, praised the law’s goal of restricting social media’s addicting features. It “adds momentum for other states to hold social media companies accountable to ensure kids across the country are protected online,” according to Jim Steyer, CEO and founder of Common Sense. The safety and mental health of children and teens depend on legislation like this to hold big tech accountable for providing safer and better online experiences, he continued, and similar legislation is in the works in California and New Jersey.
The safety and mental health of children and teens depend on legislation like this to hold big tech accountable for providing safer and better online experiences, he continued, and similar legislation is in the works in California and New Jersey. In contrast, Steyer argued that the second bill Cox signed, which allows parents access to their children’s social media posts, will “deprive kids of the online privacy protections we advocate for.” Children and teenagers will still be exposed to businesses’ harmful data gathering and design practises once they are on the platform because the law also requires them to provide age verification and parental consent in order to register for a social media account.
The enactment of social media regulations coincides with an increase in parental and governmental concern over young people’s use of social media platforms, as well as how sites like TikTok, Instagram, and others are affecting their mental health. The proposal is the most recent step Utah lawmakers have taken to safeguard kids and the content they could access online. Considering the risks it posed to children, Cox signed legislation two years ago requiring tech companies to automatically ban porn on cell phones and tablets sold. Legislators in the deeply religious state changed the bill to delay implementation until five other states passed similar laws out of concern for enforcement.
It is slated to take effect in March 2024, and Cox has already said he anticipates legal challenges from social media companies. The measure was immediately criticised by lobbyists for the internet industry as being illegal and infringing on people’s First Amendment rights to free expression online. According to Nicole Saad Bembridge, an associate director at the tech lobbying group NetChoice, “Utah will soon require online services to collect sensitive information about teens and families, not only to verify ages but to verify parental relationships, like government-issued IDs and birth certificates, putting their private data at risk of breach.”
Problem of children’s social media use, as well as the responsibilities of parents, educators, and governments in assuring their online safety
The usage of social media by children can be a double-edged sword. On the one hand, social media may allow youngsters to connect with friends and family, share their experiences and interests, and have access to educational materials. Social media, on the other hand, can expose children to cyber bullying, unsuitable content, online predators, and other threats to their physical and mental health.
Parents, educators, and governments all have a part in safeguarding children’s internet safety. Parents may begin by monitoring their children’s social media use, limiting screen time, and having regular talks about internet safety with their children. They may also teach their children about privacy settings, safe online behavior, and how to detect and report cyber bullying and other online dangers.
Educators may include digital literacy and online safety into their curricula, educating students about digital citizenship, online ethics, and social media responsibility. They can also work with parents to give information and assistance for their children’s internet safety.
Governments may assist by enacting legislation and regulations that safeguard children’s online privacy and security, as well as collaborating with social media platforms to offer tools and resources to assist parents and educators in navigating the online world securely. They can also support research into the effects of social media on children’s well-being and create public awareness initiatives to promote safe and responsible online behaviour.