Florida governor signs bill banning social media for children under 14

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis made headlines on Monday by signing into law a bill that prohibits children under the age of 14 from accessing social media platforms within the state. Additionally, children aged 14 or 15 will require parental consent before joining any social media platform.

Dubbed HB3, the bill also mandates social media companies to delete accounts belonging to individuals under the age of 14. Failure to comply with the law could result in legal action against the company, with potential damages of up to $10,000 per affected minor. Furthermore, companies found in violation of the law could face fines of up to $50,000 per instance, alongside attorney fees and court costs.

During the bill-signing ceremony, Governor DeSantis emphasized the importance of aiding parents in navigating the complexities of raising children in the digital age. He expressed gratitude for the efforts invested in crafting the legislation, which seeks to address growing concerns regarding child safety online.

Governor DeSantis previously vetoed a more stringent version of the bill that proposed banning social media access for individuals under the age of 16. The earlier bill also required Florida residents to furnish identification documents for social media registration, a provision absent from the current law.

Scheduled to come into effect in January 2025, HB3 reflects ongoing efforts nationwide to regulate social media platforms, particularly concerning the protection of minors. Concerns regarding insufficient safeguards for children’s online activities have spurred calls for legislative action, as evidenced by initiatives such as the Kids Online Safety Act (KOSA).

The push for greater accountability extends beyond legislative circles, as evidenced by congressional inquiries into online child safety. Tech industry leaders, including CEOs from major platforms like TikTok, X, and Meta, have faced scrutiny over their platforms’ measures to protect minors from exploitation and harmful content.

Proponents of Florida’s new law, including House Speaker Paul Renner, argue that excessive social media usage can negatively impact children’s mental well-being and expose them to potential risks such as communication with predators.

However, the law is not without its detractors. NetChoice LLC, a coalition representing social media platforms, has voiced opposition to Florida’s legislation, citing concerns over its constitutionality. Critics argue that the law infringes upon First Amendment rights and could set a precedent for government overreach in regulating online speech.

Despite anticipated legal challenges, Governor DeSantis and Speaker Renner remain steadfast in their support for the legislation. Renner emphasized the bill’s focus on addressing the addictive nature of social media platforms, asserting that it does not impede free speech rights.

As Florida prepares to implement this groundbreaking legislation, the debate over the balance between online safety and individual freedoms is likely to intensify, with implications reaching far beyond the Sunshine State.

​​The move by Florida follows in the footsteps of other states like Arkansas, Louisiana, Ohio, and Utah, which have either debated or passed similar laws aimed at regulating minors’ use of social media platforms. However, many of these initiatives have encountered legal hurdles, primarily revolving around issues of privacy and free speech.

California is also actively engaged in addressing this issue, with the proposed legislation titled “Protecting Our Kids from Social Media Addiction.” Sponsored by the state’s attorney general and co-authored by a bipartisan group of state senators, the bill reflects a concerted effort to mitigate the potential harms associated with excessive social media usage among young people.

Written by Sophie Blake


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