Utah Gov. Spencer Cox signed legislation Thursday that limits the state’s kids from accessing certain social media platforms, making the law the first of its kind in the U.S.
Four other states are also considering similar bills limiting social media access for minors. Federal legislation has also been proposed.
Per NBC News:
The new Utah laws — H.B. 311 and S.B. 152 — require that social media companies verify the age of any Utah resident who makes a social media profile and get parental consent for any minor who wishes to make a profile. They also force social media companies to allow parents to access posts and messages from their child’s account.
The laws also prohibit social media companies from displaying ads to minors, showing minor accounts in search results, collecting information about minors, targeting or suggesting content to minors, or knowingly integrating addictive technologies into social media apps used by minors. They also impose a curfew on the use of social media for minors, locking them out of their social media accounts between 10:30 p.m. and 6:30 a.m. based on the location of a user’s device, unless adjusted with the consent of a parent.
Utah’s laws come amid ongoing debates about the impact of social media on young people’s mental health, a link that is widely theorized but remains the subject of academic study. Mental health issues among young people have been labeled a crisis, with particular concerns about the mental health of young women.
These seem like wise laws. There is growing evidence that social media is bad enough for adults, but it is very harmful to kids.
Per Jon Haidt, it is particularly bad for young girls:
A big story last week was the partial release of the CDC’s bi-annual Youth Risk Behavior Survey, which showed that most teen girls (57%) now say that they experience persistent sadness or hopelessness (up from 36% in 2011), and 30% of teen girls now say that they have seriously considered suicide (up from 19% in 2011). Boys are doing badly too, but their rates of depression and anxiety are not as high, and their increases since 2011 are smaller. As I showed in my Feb. 16 Substack post, the big surprise in the CDC data is that COVID didn’t have much effect on the overall trends, which just kept marching on as they have since around 2012. Teens were already socially distanced by 2019, which might explain why COVID restrictions added little to their rates of mental illness, on average. (Of course, many individuals suffered greatly).
I am a big pro freedom guy, but I also understand that many young people simply don’t have the emotional maturity to fully exercise that freedom and they need to be protected.
I am not wanting to run headlong into limits, granted. But they deserve careful debate.