July 22, 2024

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Utah became the first US state to restrict “teen social media access.”

Utah is the first US state to demand social media companies obtain parental approval for children to use their apps and confirm users are at least 18 years old. The two comprehensive laws, according to the governor, were signed to safeguard the state’s youth.

With the passage of these measures, parents will have complete access to their children’s online accounts, including all posts and private communications.  The decision was made in the wake of growing anxiety around social media’s effects on children’s mental health.

As a result of the legislation, minors will no longer be able to register for accounts on applications like Instagram, Facebook, and TikTok without their parents’ or guardians’ specific permission.

In accordance with the bills, children are prohibited from using social media between the hours of 22:30 and 6:00 a.m. unless their parents make exceptions.

The law forbids social media businesses from gathering data on children or using them as a target for marketing.

The two bills, which will also facilitate legal action against social media companies, will go into effect on March 1st, 2024.

Republican governor Spencer Cox stated on Twitter: “We’re no longer willing to let social media firms keep destroying our youth’s psychological health.” Shared Sense Media, a children’s advocacy organisation, applauded the governor’s decision to restrict some of the social media’s most addictive aspects and hailed it as a “major success for kids and families in Utah.”

Jim Steyer, the founder and CEO of Common Sense Media, said that it gives other states more reason to pressure social media companies to protect children online.

Similar laws are being explored in four additional Republican-led states: Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, and Ohio, as well as in Democratic-led New Jersey.

Yet Common Sense Media and other advocacy organisations cautioned that several provisions of the new legislation could endanger children.

In a State of the Union address in February, President Joseph Biden called for legislation prohibiting internet corporations from gathering data on children.

The state of California passed its own child data law last year. The California Age-Appropriate Design Code Act, among other things, mandates that digital platforms make the strongest privacy settings for users under the age of 18 the default setting.

The passing of the Utah legislation comes only days after TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew endured a testy congressional session.