Utah Governor Spencer Cox has signed two new laws aimed at safeguarding children from the harmful impact of social media. The laws, which will come into effect in March 2024, will require parental consent for children under 18 to use social media apps, mandate age verification, and prohibit children from using social media between 10:30 pm and 6:30 am. In addition, the legislation permits lawsuits to be brought on behalf of children who claim social media has caused them harm.
The new laws were introduced in response to growing concerns about the detrimental effects of social media on children’s mental health and the addictive features of social media apps designed to keep users engaged. Studies have revealed that excessive social media use can result in anxiety, depression, and sleep deprivation.
Governor Cox emphasized that social media companies have a responsibility to protect children from the harmful effects of their products. He stated that “these laws will help ensure that children are not lured into using social media apps by addictive features and are not exposed to ads that are not appropriate for their age.”
However, social media companies are likely to contest the laws in court, arguing that they infringe on free speech and other constitutional rights. Governor Cox, however, is confident that the laws will withstand legal challenges and reiterated that the safety and well-being of children must come first.
The new laws have also drawn criticism from digital privacy advocacy groups, who argue that they may limit children’s access to online resources and infringe on their privacy. Governor Cox has, however, stressed that the laws aim to protect children’s health and safety, and that parents will still be able to make informed decisions about their children’s online activity.
The enactment of these laws is a significant move towards safeguarding children from the adverse effects of social media. By necessitating parental consent, mandating age verification, and restricting social media usage during specific hours, the laws aim to protect children from harmful content or addictive features that can negatively impact their mental health and well-being. The laws are part of a broader recognition of the need to regulate social media in the interest of public health and safety, with other states, both red and blue, also advancing similar proposals.