Utah social media law requires kids to get parental approval

  • New Utah laws require kids to get parents' permission for social media sites
  • State lawmakers say the legislation will help protect kids online
  • Tech industry groups say the laws are unconstitutional

(NewsNation) — Utah has become the first state to sign into law legislation that will limit teenagers’ access to social media apps including TikTok and Instagram.

Republican Gov. Spencer Cox signed two laws Thursday requiring parental consent before kids can sign up for social media sites. The laws also prohibit children younger than 18 from using social media between 10:30 p.m. and 6:30 a.m. and require age verification for anyone who wants to use social media in the state.

“We’re very concerned about the harm social media is having on our kids,” one of the bill’s chief sponsors, Republican state Senator Michael McKell, told NewsNation’s “Rush Hour” on Friday.

Last month, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report showed nearly one in three high school girls seriously considered suicide over the past year. That number is up nearly 60% from a decade ago and tracks closely with the rise in social media use.

McKell believes social media companies are partially to blame for the concerning mental health trends. Thurday’s legislation now opens the door to lawsuits against those companies on behalf of children claiming social media harmed them.

The companies are expected to sue before the laws take effect in March 2024.

The new laws also require that parents be given access to their childrens’ accounts.

“What we’re trying to do is empower parents,” said McKell, who acknowledged that some kids will probably find a way around the rule.

The bills come out of a Utah Legislature with a Republican-supermajority but concerns around social media have become a bipartisan issue.

Lawmakers in Arkansas, Texas, Ohio, Louisiana and New Jersey are advancing similar proposals.

Opponents of the laws, including tech industry groups, say the legislation infringes on people’s right to exercise their First Amendment rights online.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation earlier this month demanded Cox veto the Utah legislation, saying time limits and age verification would infringe on teens’ rights to free speech and privacy.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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