Florida Senate approves revamped social media ban for minors

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Changes are on the way to how the state of Florida plans to regulate social media use for your kids.

Lawmakers are hammering out a new deal, after Gov. Ron DeSantis vetoed the one that would have banned kids under 16 from having social media accounts. The governor said he has concerns that the language might not adequately protect privacy.

In a post on X, the governor wrote: “Protecting children from harms associated with social media is important, as is supporting parents’ rights and maintaining the ability of adults to engage in anonymous speech… I anticipate the new bill will recognize these priorities and will be signed into law soon.”

With the legislative session ending Friday, lawmakers are up against the wall to get a new social media bill in place before the end of the week. This new version includes more parental rights that the governor wanted but some say, it’s still not the way to tackle the issue.

State Sen. Erin Grall, R-Fort Pierce, explains why she sponsored the social media bill.

Now wrapped up in HB3, the measure passed the Senate with overwhelming support, 30-5, and is on the way to the House. The bill still does not target specific social media sites, but rather bans kids from those with addictive features like data collection algorithms and infinite scrolling. Platforms like X, Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok are all likely to qualify.

Fourteen and 15-year-olds could now have accounts under the new measure, but with parental consent. The bill does not specify how the platforms obtain that consent, and still hold them responsible to verify the age of the account holder. Parents could sue the company for not following the rules.

State Sen. Tina Polsky, D-Boca Raton, who represents part of Palm Beach County called the bill arbitrary and said it doesn’t address the core issue of parental control.

“I pay for her phone, her computer, her iPad, whatever the case may be, so I get to control that. So, for the government to come in and say, no the age is 14, I think runs into all the constitutional issues we discussed,” she said. “I still think it’s a little random, only parental consent for 14 and 15-year-olds. It’s just so narrow that I don’t think it deals with the general issue of parental consent.”

“I would say we have to do something and we can’t stand by any longer and allow them, these companies, to own our children with this terrible content,” bill sponsor State Sen. Erin Grall, R-Fort Pierce, said.

Tara Smith explains the challenges of regulating social media for teens.
Tara Smith explains the challenges of regulating social media for teens.

Meanwhile, State Sen. Bobby Powell, D-West Palm Beach, voted against it.

“Thus far, there have been no courts that upheld anything like this,” he said. “So, to think that we will be the standard bearer or the first to do that is a little bit presumptuous.”

Tara Smith lives in Delray Beach and is mom to a 13-year-old son and 11-year-old daughter. She monitors everything they look at on social media. For her son, she said its more video games on YouTube. Her daughter more beauty influencers on platforms like TikTok.

“There is no bill powerful enough to keep these kids from social media, it’s not possible,” she said, upon hearing the details of the new bill.
“At that age group, what all the little girls are looking at, it’s all beauty, beauty, beauty, make-up, make-up, make-up, face cream, face cream, face cream. It’s an epidemic among teen girls right now.”

However, she feels it is her responsibility to regulate, not politicians.

State Sen. Tina Polsky, D-Boca Raton, explains why she thinks the bill is arbitrary.
State Sen. Tina Polsky, D-Boca Raton, explains why she thinks the bill is arbitrary.

“If they want to take the bread and butter away from a group that large, it’s not happening,” Smith said. “Social media is their entertainment and the way to limit it is to limit the time on technology, while watching what they are watching on social media, and you can’t really put a bill on that, can you?”

The responsibility all falls on the social media platforms. There is no penalty for a parent or child if someone younger than 14 has access to social media or ends up with an account.

Lawmakers also clarified the bill does not allow a child under 14 to be the account holder, that doesn’t mean a parent cannot allow them to use the parent’s account.

Smith said her daughter is under her YouTube account, which allows her to better monitor what her daughter is looking at online.

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