Social media now unlawful for kids under 14 in Florida

Children aged 14 to 15 must get their parents' consent to have an account.
By Amanda Yeo  on March 26, 2024
Mashable

On March 26, 2024, Florida enacted a groundbreaking law significantly limiting social media access for children, as reported by Amanda Yeo. Under this new legislation, dubbed House Bill 3 (HB 3), children under the age of 14 are prohibited from having social media accounts, while those aged 14 to 15 require parental consent to create or maintain one. This law represents a bold step in regulating the digital landscape to safeguard young users from the potential harms associated with social media usage.

Governor Ron DeSantis, who signed HB 3 into law, emphasized the legislation's role in empowering parents to protect their children more effectively. By setting these age restrictions, Florida aims to mitigate various adverse effects social media can have on minors, from exposure to inappropriate content to the psychological impacts of online engagement. The law is set to take effect from January 1, allowing a transition period for current underage users to adapt to the changes.

Social media platforms traditionally set the minimum age for account creation at 13, aligning with the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). However, HB 3 raises the legal age limit to 14 within Florida, introducing penalties for platforms that fail to enforce these regulations. This legislation mandates that platforms prohibit account creation by children under 14 and delete existing accounts held by this age group. Additionally, platforms must terminate accounts if algorithmic analysis suggests a user is likely under the age threshold.

For 14- and 15-year-olds, social media use hinges on obtaining parental or guardian consent, a process that underscores the law's focus on parental rights and child safety. If consent is not granted or is later revoked, children in this age group are limited to communication methods like email and group chats until they reach the age of 16. Notably, HB 3 does not apply to platforms exclusively used for direct messaging, allowing continued use of email and similar services.

The responsibility for compliance with HB 3 lies with the social media companies, not the individual users. Platforms risk fines up to $50,000 per violation for non-compliance and may face lawsuits on behalf of children, with damages up to $10,000. Alongside social media regulations, HB 3 includes age verification requirements for pornographic websites, aligning with similar laws in other states aimed at protecting minors from exposure to harmful content online.

This legislation marks a significant development in the ongoing discussion about the role and regulation of technology in the lives of young people, highlighting the challenges and responsibilities of balancing digital freedoms with safeguarding minors.

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Prepared with the assistance of AI software
OpenAI. (2024). ChatGPT (4) [Large language model]. https://chat.openai.com

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