Utah Bans Teens Under 18 From Social Media Without Parental Consent

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Utah Gov. Spencer Cox (R) signed legislation Thursday prohibiting minors from using social media without parental consent, in the nation’s most sweeping regulations targeting kids’ and teens’ internet use as criticism of social media platforms reaches a fever pitch nationally.

The two bills Cox signed into law enact numerous new restrictions, such as requiring social media companies to verify a user’s age and setting a 10:30 p.m.-6:30 a.m. curfew where minors will be locked out of their accounts unless a parent disables the feature.

The new laws also give parents access to their children’s posts and private messages, while platforms are banned from using algorithms that might cause “addiction” to apps in minors.

Republican lawmakers cited a teen mental health crisis they blame on increased social media use as a reason for the new regulations—though the impacts of social media remain unclear and are the subject of public health debate.

The new laws take effect March 1, 2024.

Lawmakers in Connecticut and Ohio are working on similar bills that would require platforms to get parental permission for users under 16 to sign up. President Joe Biden in his State of the Union address last month also called on Congress to act “to strengthen privacy protections, ban targeted advertising to children, demand tech companies stop collecting personal data on our children.”

Cox’s signatures came just hours after a House panel grilled TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew for hours in a rare show of bipartisan outrage. Lawmakers repeatedly pressed Chew for answers on what connection the popular app has to its Chinese parent company, ByteDance, and the Chinese Communist government. Chew claimed he has “seen no evidence” of Chinese officials using TikTok to monitor Americans, saying he “disagrees with the characterization” that TikTok spies on Americans (ByteDance had planned to use TikTok to spy on U.S. citizens, including Forbes reporters). Lawmakers also blasted TikTok for allegedly pushing “dangerous” challenges and self-harm content toward teens, with Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) saying the app worsens “feelings of emotional stress” in young people. Chew claimed TikTok does have protections in place for younger users, calling instances of self-harm blamed on TikTok “devastating.” TikTok COO Vanessa Pappas said after the hearing the company felt the proceedings were “rooted in xenophobia.”

Utah Law Could Curb Use of TikTok and Instagram by Children and Teens (New York Times)

TikTok CEO Spars With Congress Amid Growing Calls For Ban—As Lawmaker Calls Privacy Claims ‘Preposterous’ (Forbes)

TikTok Parent ByteDance Planned To Use TikTok To Monitor The Physical Location Of Specific American Citizens (Forbes)

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