Utah releases details of new social media laws


Gabe McKinlay

high school student’s iPhone screen container of various social media apps

Do you agree with states limiting social media use for users under the age of 18?


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On March 23rd, Utah Governor Spencer J. Cox signed a law into place that would set restrictions on social media users under 18. The law would require the social media companies to get parental consent before a child signs up for the platform.
The new bill, SB0152, requires social media companies to verify the ages of new users under the age of 18 in the state of Utah. The user’s parents will also be required to have access to anything the child posts or any message they send. The bill also “prohibits a social media company from permitting a Utah resident to open an account if that person does not meet age requirements under state or federal law”, meaning a user cannot create an account on their own unless they are 18.
Other regulations in the law include a restriction on advertisements being shown, data being prohibited from being collected by users under 18, as well as a curfew that would lock the user out of their accounts from 10:30 p.m. to 6:30 a.m., a time that can be adjusted by the parent. Underage accounts will also not be shown in search results.
Legislators in Utah cite a mental health crisis and the effects social media can have on a child’s mental health as reasons for introducing and passing the bill.
In an interview with CNN, Mike McKell, a Republican representative and the bill’s Chief Sponsor, said “we’ve got a mental health crisis” and “there are a lot of negative impacts of social media and we want to change that.” He also said he “[wishes] all parents would step up, it’s simply not happening.”
Four other Republican states, Arkansas, Texas, Ohio, and Louisiana, are considering a variation of the bill, while one Democratic state, New Jersey, is also considering the regulations. McKell said there has been bipartisan support from representatives of both parties, as well as President Biden, in getting the regulations in place.
A second bill was also signed into law, HS 311, that offers the option for social media companies to be sued on behalf of the child for any harm caused by social media apps. This prevents companies from “using a design or feature that causes a minor to have an addiction to the company’s social media platform.”
Concerns have been raised over whether the bill is an invasion of privacy or not. Kris Perry, the executive director of the nonprofit Children and Screens, said children “are not allowed some ability for freedom of speech or autonomy.”
With the laws not going into effect for another eleven months, there is time left to ensure the bills are the issues critics have brought up concerning the bill. The legislation is to go into effect on March 1st, 2024, just months before the 2024 Utah state gubernatorial election.