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New Florida Law Bans Social Media For Children Under 14

Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill that will make it illegal for anyone under the age of 14 to have a social media account. It is expected to be challenged.

On March 25, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed HB 3 into law, which would bar Floridian children under the age of 14 from having a social media account. “Social media harms children in a variety of ways,” DeSantis said in a statement. “HB 3 gives parents a greater ability to protect their children.” In addition to barring children under the age of 14 from having an account on platforms like TikTok, Snapchat, and Instagram, the law would require parental consent for anyone under the age of 16 to have a social media account and requires sexually explicit websites to use age verification. It is set to go into effect on Jan. 1, 2025.

HB 3 — a less stringent version of a similar law DeSantis vetoed earlier this month — not only prohibits new accounts for anyone under the age of 14, but requires social media companies to terminate any account held by anyone younger than 14 or 15, and accounts belonging to 14- and 15-year-olds who have not obtained a parent or guardian’s permission. The bill goes on to explain that tech companies will be required to use independent third parties in order to verify the age of potential users.

Similar laws, such as one in Arkansas last year, have been blocked by federal judges on First Amendment grounds. DeSantis expects HB 3 will face similar challenges, despite his personal belief in the constitutionality of said law. There’s also the question of how successful age verification measures would even be in keeping kids off social media. Presently, American children must be 13 years old to hold a social media account in accordance to the federal Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act. And yet in spite of this law, it is estimated that approximately 68% of pre-teens have at least one social media account. More often than not, this is simply a matter of listing your age as older when establishing an account.

Last year, Surgeon General Vivek Murthy asserted that he felt 13 years old was “too early” to be on social media, specifically calling out the addictive nature of their design. “We have some of the best designers and product developers in the world who have designed these products to make sure people are maximizing the amount of time they’re spend on these platforms. And if we tell a child ‘use the force of your willpower to control how much time you’re spending..,’ you’re pitting a child against the world’s greatest product designers. And that’s just not a fair fight.”

“A child in their brain development doesn’t have the ability to know that they’re being sucked into these addictive technologies and to see the harm and step away from it,” said Republican Speaker Paul Renner, who championed the bill, at the signing ceremony. “This is an issue where we can no longer stand on the sidelines because of what we know.” Renner went on to say that the all but inevitable legal challenges did not deter him from his course. “We’re going to beat them. We’re going to beat them and we’re never, ever going to stop.”