Utah – The world has been moving toward a new era of technology and social media for more than a decade.
Many users started using the platforms as teenagers and grew up with them, and their children now want to join in on the fun.
Yet, there has been a heated controversy about whether they should even be permitted on the platforms in the first place.
Utah’s governor signed a contentious bill to safeguard children online on Thursday.
Utah’s governor approved legislation requiring minors to obtain parental consent before opening social media accounts on a variety of sites.
The bill is widely regarded as the most extreme action taken by state or federal politicians to protect children online.
The Utah Social Media Regulation Act includes the following regulations:
- Social media platforms must conduct age verification for Utah residents
- Band ads for minors
- Impose an online curfew
- Restrict sites between 10:30 pm to 6:30 am for those under 18
- Parents must be able to access their teens’ accounts
Republican Senator Michael McKell presented the legislation, which was later signed into law by Republican Governor Spencer Cox.
It will become effective on March 1, 2024.
McKell talked on how the rise of social media has increased anxiety, sadness, and suicide thoughts among Utah and nationwide children.
“When it comes down to it, [the bill] is about protecting our children,” he said.
“As a lawmaker and parent, I believe this bill is the best path forward to prevent our children from succumbing to the negative and sometimes life-threatening effects of social media.”
The legislation is also the result of years of campaigning by American politicians for protections to protect children and teens online.
Fears about young users falling into harmful rabbit holes have persisted, leading to a new type of abuse and harassment.
Additionally, social media is said to have aggravated what is regarded as a teen mental health crisis in the United States.
As a result, no federal law has been enacted.
The states and proposals
Utah is the first state to pass laws emphasizing children’s internet safety.
They are not, however, the only ones who have designed such a plan.
Legislators in Connecticut and Ohio, for example, are attempting to introduce laws requiring social networking firms to obtain parental consent before allowing users under the age of 16 to join.
“We can assume more methods like the Utah bill could find their way into other states’ plans, especially if actions are not taken at the federal level,” said ABI Research analyst Michael Inouye.
“Eventually, if enough states implement similar or related legislation, we could see a more concerted effort at the federal level to codify these (likely) disparate state laws under a US-wide policy.”
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Experts and Big Tech companies have long lobbied the US government to enact legislation to protect younger social media users.
Even before the bill was passed, many people voiced worries about its implications.
According to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Utah’s limitations are harmful to user privacy.
According to the organization, the law would also make user data less safe, internet access less private, and infringe on young users’ basic rights.
“Social media provides a lifeline for many young people, in addition to community, education, and conversation,” said EFF director of activism Jason Kelley.
“They use it in part because it can be private.”
“The law, which would limit social media access and require parental consent and monitoring for minors, will incalculably harm the ability of young people to protect their privacy and deter them from exercising their rights.”
Lucy Ivey, a TikTok influencer and Utah Valley University student, agreed with the thoughts of the group.
She argued that the change will provide difficulties for her LGBT colleagues.
“My worry with this bill is that it will take away privacy from teenagers, and a lot of kids don’t have good relationships with their parents or don’t have a reliable guardian that would be needed to get access to social media,” said Ivey.
“I think about my LGBTQ friends; some who have a hard time with their parents because of their sexuality or identity, and they could be losing an important place where they can be themselves, and be seen and heard.”
Ivey created Our Era when she was 15 years old, later expanding her production on TikTok, where she voiced worry about the bill’s ramifications for content creators like herself.
“With a new law like this, they may now be intimidated and discouraged by the legal hoops required to use social media out of fear of authority or their parents, or fear of losing their privacy at a time when teens are figuring out who they are.”
Meta, Facebook’s parent corporation, stated that it shares the same aims as parents and politicians.
Yet, by providing easily accessible platforms, the company encourages young people to have a fun and safe online experience.
Antigone Davis, Meta’s worldwide head of safety, stated that the firm will continue to collaborate with experts, governments, and parents to address the challenges.
Even though the Utah legislative procedures are problematic, Inouye believes that the early efforts to fix the issues are limited.