DORAL, FL – On Wednesday, the House approved HB 1 to ban social media on minors under 16 years of age. This means, individuals on that age range wouldn’t be able to keep or open social media accounts.
From a legislative point of view, a social media platform is one that allows users to upload content or view it when posted by others, and it also refers to companies that track the activity of their users when they provide this service. That covers such major platforms as Facebook, Instagram or X.
Considering this definition, sponsors of the bill, voted 106-13, argued social media provides a dangerous environment that can’t be ignored.
“When cops know that a dark street has a lot of crime on it, they’ll post an officer or they’ll install a streetlamp,” said Rep. Fiona McFarland, a Sarasota Republican.
She also added: “We lock our houses at night to keep ourselves and our family safe. And we don’t let minors drink or smoke because of the harms to their bodies and their brains at a developmental stage in their life. But when it comes to social media, it follows us everywhere with addictive little pings and algorithms that keep us constantly turning back to it, turning down sleep, turning down food so we can keep up with the latest what’s going on in our community.”
In addition, those in favor said the continuous use of social media compromises the mental health of Florida kids and teenagers.
“Children have always faced mean girls and boys,” Speaker Paul Renner said. “But social media has changed the game and causes unprecedented damage to our children’s mental health.”
Opponents, on the other hand, think this bill would go against children’s First Amendment rights, while they also think is too broad and would as a result make children miss out on important digital skills.
“Where is it going to stop, where we tell parents, ‘No, we in this body know better than you what’s good for your child’?” asked Rep. Ashley Gantt, a Miami Democrat.
“Supporting our children comes in more ways than removing social media,” Rep. Daryl Campbell, a Fort Lauderdale Democrat, said. “So don’t limit their advancement by telling them they can’t use it, because ultimately they are going to use it.”
The bill will require social media companies to have an independent, private, third-party age verification service. In addition, it will force such companies to delete permanently the personal data collected on minors under the age of 16 and data collected by the third-party authentication.
The legislation specifically excludes any exclusive communication software such as e-mail or direct messaging. It also exempts streaming platforms providing only licensed content such as Netflix or Disney Plus.
If passed by the Senate, the measure would go into law July 1.
Photo by: Pixabay.com