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For years, we’ve been hearing about the potential negative impact that social media could have on the mental, emotional and physical well-being of young teens. There have been grassroots lobbying efforts aimed squarely at Big Tech, all designed to get more protections for young social media users. But Silicon Valley refused to listen each time.
Utah just forced social media to acknowledge it has a mental health problem
So it’s satisfying to see that lawmakers around the nation have started to take real, concrete actions against companies like Facebook, Twitter, and TikTok. In March, Utah enacted first-in-the-nation legislation that establishes a social media curfew for young social media users under the age of 18. Between the hours of 10:30 pm and 6:30 am, young teens will be unable to access social media. It will be the duty and responsibility of social media platforms to make this a reality: it is not some kind of self-imposed curfew that nobody can verify.
Moreover, this Utah legislation goes one step further by enforcing a “proof of ID” rule. In the past, children were able to gain access to social media accounts without being forced to prove their ages. All they had to do was, literally, check a box confirming their age. But the new Utah bill proposes a stringent new rule that adults must confirm the ages of their kids, or they will lose the accounts. Moreover, the social media platforms must give parents access to those accounts. In theory, this will keep kids from using social media in a way that their parents do not approve of.
It’s all part of a larger effort to protect kids from the potentially dangerous mental health impacts of social media. The stories about eating disorders, depression, and suicide amongst young children are now so common that it’s almost impossible to argue that social media use is not somehow responsible. The big social media platforms refused to do anything about it. In some cases, they hid the evidence of their own internal business groups. So something finally needed to be done.
Momentum in other states as well?
And it’s not just Utah where this type of legislation is now popping up. Arkansas, Texas, Ohio and Louisiana have similar types of bills pending. With the new Utah bill scheduled to go into effect in March 2024, other states may be inspired to enact similar types of legislation over the next year.
That is, if the social media giants aren’t able to block this legislation. Already, there are signs that lobbying groups from Big Tech are going to try to block the Utah bill. They claim it violates the First Amendment rights of young children. Because, you know, every 15-year-old in the nation has the constitutional right to get up in the middle of the night and send a silly tweet.
These lobbying groups are also presenting all kinds of dire scenarios caused by this legislation. They warn about the fragmentation of the internet and the end of public discourse in America. Indirectly, without saying it, they also seem to imply that fathers and mothers are “bad parents” if they actually try to curb the social media use of their kids.