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Florida Lawmakers Enact Ban on Social Media for Children Under 16

On Feb. 23, Florida legislatures passed a ban on social media for children under the age of 16. The bill  is now under review by  Florida GovernorRon DeSantis. The bill has caused many conflicting viewpoints on its implications for parent’s rights and its constitutional legitimacy. 


February 23, 2024

By: Vaneti Ceus

Miami- The Republican-controlled legislature in Florida has recently passed legislation that would ban all social media apps for children under the age of 16. The state’s  legislature claims that the law will protect young people from online risks to their mental health. The measure is now being held under review at Governor Ron DeSantis's office for his signature and approval. This bill would require social media platforms to terminate the accounts of people under 16 and use a third-party verification system to screen out those who are underage. 

This bill has been proposed in response to a large influx of teens on social media sites and owning smartphones in recent years. According to advocates of the bill, social media apps are in large part responsible for  the rising suicide rates among children–10% to 20% of adolescents experiencing suicidal thoughts worldwide–cyberbullying, and predators taking advantage of children using online sites. . 

A Pew Research Survey in 2023 even once noted that a third of teens aged 13 to 17 said that they use the most popular social media platforms “almost constantly”. They also found that smartphone ownership is nearly universal among teens surveyed spanning across all genders, age gaps, economic backgrounds, races, and ethnicities. The bill targets any social media site that tracks users’ activity, allows children to upload material and interact with others, and uses addictive features to cause excessive or compulsive use. “House Bill 1: Online Protection for Minors” passed with an overwhelming majority in the Florida House with a vote of 108-7 and in the Senate passed with a vote of 23-14. 

The bill states that even if a parent offers parental consent for a child to be on social media, they would still not be allowed to have an account on any social media site– a decision that has left Governor DeSantis conflicted about signing the bill, claiming that it may further restrict parents rights. According to the text of the bill, a social media platform could also be fined $50,000 if it refuses to comply with the terms of the bill. If a platform also doesn’t delete an account that a parent requests be deleted, they could be fined up to $10,000 in damages. 

The passage of this bill has been one of the most restrictive and controversial social media bans that the state of Florida has ever enacted. With parental rights and the well-being of children constantly being put into question, it changes the dynamic that children have with social media and how it affects their world.

Fabiha Khanam, director of the Media Relations team at Teens for Press Freedom, states that, “the protection of youth in social media platforms is crucial. However, this bill causes immense censorship and limits the free expression of teens on social media. Rather than restricting access for teens to use sites, we should focus more on regulating healthy environments and algorithms for teens to engage with. This bill would restrict teens' expression and freedom without getting to the root of the problem”. 

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