Utah is the first U.S. state to require social media companies to obtain parental consent for children to use their apps and to verify that users are at least 18 years old. The governor stated that he signed the two comprehensive measures to safeguard the state's youth.
The law grants parents full access to their children's online accounts. This includes posts and private messages. The move comes amid heightened concern regarding the effect of social media on the mental health of children.
A parent or guardian's explicit consent will be required for children to create accounts on apps such as Instagram, Facebook, and TikTok, per measures enacted on Thursday.
The bills implement a social media curfew that prevents children from accessing these platforms between 22:30 and 06:30 unless their parents adjust the time. According to the law, social media companies will no longer be able to collect children's data or target them with advertisements.
The two bills, which are also intended to facilitate legal action against social media companies, will become effective on March 1, 2024. Republican Governor Spencer Cox mentioned to sources that they will no longer allow social media companies to continue to harm the mental health of our youth.
A Republican, Governor Spencer Cox mentioned to sources that they are no longer willing to let social media companies keep harming the mental health of our youth. He said that as leaders and parents, it is our responsibility to safeguard our youth. The children's advocacy group Common Sense Media hailed the governor's decision to restrict some of the most addictive social media features as a "huge victory for children and families in Utah."
Jim Steyer, founder and CEO of Common Sense Media, mentioned that it adds momentum for other states to hold social media companies responsible in order to protect children across the country online. Similar regulations are being considered in Arkansas, Texas, Ohio, and Louisiana, as well as the Democratic-led state of New Jersey.
However, many advocacy organizations warned that certain provisions of the new legislation could put children in danger.
TechFreedom's attorney for free speech, Ari Z. Cohn stated that the bill posed "significant free speech problems." He mentioned to sources that there are so many children in abusive homes who may be LGBT and who could be completely cut off from social media. In response, Facebook's parent company, Meta, stated that it has robust tools to protect children.
A spokesperson mentioned to sources that there are 30 tools they have developed to support families and teens. This includes tools that allow adolescents and their parents to limit the amount of time adolescents spend on Instagram. The age verification technology helps teens have an age-appropriate experience. There has been additional bipartisan support in the United States for social media legislation designed to protect children.
In his February State of the Union address, President Joe Biden called for legislation prohibiting tech companies from collecting data on children.
The California legislature passed its own child data law in 2013. The California Age-Appropriate Design Code Act, among other provisions, mandates that digital platforms default to the most stringent privacy settings for users under the age of 18.
The passage of the Utah legislation coincides with a hostile congressional hearing for the CEO of TikTok, Shou Zi Chew.