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Governor Signs Bill That Limits Access to Social Media for Children Under 16

The Florida Channel

Florida - Monday March 25, 2024: At a news conference in Jacksonville this morning (Monday) Governor DeSantis signed House Bill 3 into law. It prohibits children under the age of 14 from becoming social media account holders and requires 14 and 15-year-olds to get their parents' permission before they can sign up for a social media account.

The measure is scheduled to take effect January 1, 2025.

The bill is narrowly focused on the addictive features some social media platforms employ to target children. The legislation uses a narrow four-prong test to focus on platforms where:

  • Ten percent of daily active users are children under 16 who use the platform for two hours or more a day (which corresponds to mental health harms);
  • The platform employs addictive design features;
  • The platform uses an algorithm that gathers personal information about each child and delivers ever-changing content to keep them on the platform for as long as possible; and 
  • The platform allows users to upload content and view the activity of other users. 

Social media platforms that fall into those categories must ensure that minors under 14 are not permitted on their platforms. But the bill allows platforms to develop their own methods for accomplishing this goal. The platforms must also adopt acceptable methods for parental opt-in for 14 and 15-year-old minors. 
The bill also increases subpoena powers for the attorney general to enforce the measure and outlines penalties for violations by offending social media platforms and adult websites. It also provides for private causes of action by parents on behalf of their minor children. 

In addition to protecting children from the dangers of social media, HB 3 requires pornographic or sexually explicit websites to use age verification to prevent minors from accessing sites that are inappropriate for children.

Websites that host adult content with material harmful to minors must also provide anonymous third-party age verification methods to ensure that the user is 18 years of age. The user data must be deleted upon verification.

Specifically, the bill:

  • Prevents a minor who is younger than 14 years of age from becoming a social media account holder.
  • Empowers parents to decide whether their 14 or 15-year-old child can have a social media account.
  • Protects the ability of Floridians to remain anonymous online.

“Social media harms children in a variety of ways,” said the Governor. “HB 3 gives parents a greater ability to protect their children."
The measure was a priority for House Speaker Paul Renner who said “the internet has become a dark alley for our children where predators target them and dangerous social media leads to higher rates of depression, self-harm, and even suicide."

The bill was sponsored in the house by Representatives Tyler Sirois, Fiona McFarland, Michele Rayner, Chase Tramont, and Toby Overdorf. Speaker Renner thanked them "for delivering a legislative framework that prioritizes keeping our children safe."

Senator Erin Grall (R-Vero Beach), who sponsored the measure in the state Senate, said "we have taken a significant step in protecting Florida’s children from the dark patterns used by the platforms."