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A hot potato: How do you limit teens' exposure to social media? Utah thinks it has the solution: a law requiring kids to have parental consent if they want to use apps like TikTok and Snap. Not only would permission be needed to create an account, but the measure could introduce curfews, age verification features, and other restrictions.
Two laws signed by Republican Gov. Spencer Cox Thursday contain some extreme restrictions, including blocking under-18 from using social media between 10:30 pm and 6:30 am, reminiscent of China's curfew on the same age group that limits their online gaming time to 3 hours per week. However, parents or guardians would be able to change the times.
Under the new law, social media owners like Meta would be required to gain a parent's permission before a teen could create an account on a platform. Companies would also be barred "from using a design or feature that causes a minor to have an addiction to the company's social media platform."
Parents will also have more control over what their children do on social media, with the new measure requiring companies to give parents access to their kids' posts, messages, and responses.
The New York Times reports that Republican Utah senate member Michael K. McKell, who sponsored the bill, said the statute was intended to address a "mental health crisis" among American teenagers. It's also designed to protect teens from bullying and sexual exploitation.
Other states, including Arkansas, Texas, Ohio, and Louisiana, are considering similar social media bills, though it's unclear how these will be enforced – the Texas bill would outright ban social media accounts for minors. The Utah measure, which applies to social networks with at least five million account holders worldwide, is scheduled to take effect on March 1 next year.
Questions over the negative impact social media has on younger users have been around for years, intensifying since the Meta/Instagram scandal in which it was revealed that the company was aware of just how damaging Instagram can be to teenagers. Most platforms allow users to join at the age of 13, but US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy believes this is too young.