Utah children and teens will require parental consent before joining social media platforms, a new law has ruled, making the state the first in the nation to pass such legislation. Under 18s will need permission to use apps such as TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook, and will face an overnight curfew, unless this is adjusted by their parents.
The controversial bill, signed on Thursday, will go into effect on March 1, 2024, and will also grant parents full access to their children’s accounts, including private messages.
A second bill, prohibiting social media companies from using features that could cause an addiction to the platform and making it easier for people to sue social media companies for damages, was also passed.
“We’re no longer willing to let social media companies continue to harm the mental health of our youth,” Republican Governor Spencer Cox, who signed both bills, tweeted Thursday.
As per the first bill, social media platforms will be required to conduct age checks for all Utah residents already using or seeking to open an account. Those under the age of 18 will need consent from a parent to access the platforms, and will not be able to do so between 10:30 pm and 06:30 am, although this default curfew can be regulated by their parents.
In addition, the law prohibits direct messages from accounts that aren’t followed or friended by the child and blocks underage accounts from search results. Companies will not be able to collect a child’s data or target their account for advertising.
It is not yet clear how exactly these regulations will be enforced, although the Utah government website states that violations may be reported to the Department of Commerce, Division of Consumer Protection, which could seek legal action or impose up to a $2,500 fine per infraction.
Similar bills are being considered in Arkansas, Texas, Ohio, Louisiana, and New Jersey, per the BBC, despite concerns from civil liberties advocacy groups that such legislation could actually put children at risk.
"There are so many children who might be in abusive households," Ari Z Cohn, a free speech lawyer for TechFreedom, told the BBC, "who might be LGBT, who could be cut-off from social media entirely."