Legislators in the Florida House of Representatives have passed a groundbreaking bill that could enforce the strictest regulation on social media use by children in the United States. The legislation, known as Florida House Bill 1, seeks to prohibit children under the age of 16 from accessing most social media platforms, irrespective of parental approval.
The bill specifically targets platforms that track user activity, allow content uploads by children, or employ addictive features designed to induce compulsive usage. The Florida House approved the bill with a vote of 106 to 13, with bipartisan support, and it will now move to the Republican-controlled Senate for further consideration.
Republican State Representative Fiona McFarland likened social media to “digital fentanyl” for children, emphasizing the addictive nature of these platforms during the bill’s promotion on the House floor. Another Republican legislator, State Representative Tyler Sirois, echoed these concerns, stating that social media platforms are taking advantage of the developmental stage of children.
Notably, most social media platforms currently have a minimum user age requirement of 13, but the proposed legislation aims to raise the age limit to 16. The bill empowers authorities to terminate social media accounts belonging to users under 16, including deleting information from existing accounts. Furthermore, it mandates social media sites to implement “reasonable age verification methods” to confirm users’ ages.
Opponents argue that the bill infringes on First Amendment rights and parental authority. Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, advocates for federal oversight on social media regulation and contends that parental approval should suffice for minors’ social media use.
The legislative move in Florida comes at a time when social media companies, parents, legislators, and healthcare providers grapple with the challenges of balancing social media use and its impact on children. Meta recently announced new safety measures aimed at teens, including restricting private messages from strangers and introducing additional parental controls.
This legislative development is part of a broader conversation on the potential hazards of social media for youth, with New York City Mayor Eric Adams recently labeling it a “public health hazard” and an “environmental toxin.” As discussions on the role of social media in shaping adolescent mental health intensify, different stakeholders are exploring ways to address the associated challenges responsibly.