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Florida bans children under 14 from holding social media accounts

What just happened? In a move supporters claim is aimed at protecting kids from the dangers of unregulated internet use, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis on Monday signed a bill that bans all children under the age of 14 from social media platforms. The new law also prohibits kids aged 14 and 15 from having a social media presence without the consent of their parents.

The law, which will go into effect on January 1, 2025, is expected to have far-reaching consequences for not only teens and their parents, but also social media companies that will have to delete the accounts of children under the age of 14. They will also have to seek parental consent for kids who are 14 or 15 years old. According to the provisions of the bill, the social media companies will need to use a third-party verification system to determine which users are underage before terminating their accounts for good.

In a statement, DeSantis said that the new law will help protect kids from the ills of social media and give parents “a greater ability to protect their children.” He also expressed confidence that it will withstand legal scrutiny in case social media companies decide to sue the state for what some believe is an unconstitutional and unjustified ban. According to DeSantis, the ban will be upheld by the courts because it is “a fair application of the law and Constitution.”

The action comes about a month after Florida’s Republican-led legislature passed a bill that would have banned children under the age of 16 from social media entirely. DeSantis, however, vetoed that bill, saying that parents need to be given a say on whether their teenage children could use social media. Following the veto, the bill was amended to allow parents of 14- and 15-year-olds to give consent to having their kids on social media platforms.

Supporters of the new bill claim that it will prevent social media from harming young and impressionable youngsters who often develop anxiety, depression and other mental illnesses due to bullying and harassment they face online. Critics, however, believe that the bill violates the First Amendment protections for free speech and is a clear infringement by the government on parental rights.

Despite stiff opposition, several states are enacting similar laws, ostensibly to protect children from online dangers. In March 2023, Utah enacted legislation to regulate children’s access to social media. Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders also signed into law a similar bill last April, requiring parental consent for minors to create new social media accounts. However, a federal judge temporarily blocked the state from enforcing the law which was set to take effect in September. Other states that are also reportedly considering similar laws include Louisiana, Ohio and Texas.

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