Minors will need parental consent to use social media such as Instagram or TikTok in the state of Utah. Plus, they won’t be able to use them from 10:30 p.m. to 6:30 a.m., according to two laws signed into law this Thursday by the state’s Republican governor, Spencer Cox. Conservative Utah became the first state in the United States to impose restrictions of this kind in an attempt to prevent disruptions that excessive networking can cause to younger children. Other countries are working on similar proposals.
The restrictions, which will go into effect March 1, 2024, were approved by the state parliament by a Republican majority and are the latest example of concern about the harmful effects that social networking could have. According to Cox, there are studies that show that the time children spend using social networks causes “psychological problems.” “We remain very optimistic that we will be able to pass, not just here in Utah, but across the country, legislation that will dramatically change our children’s relationship with these highly destructive social media applications,” she said.
New regulations will force tech companies to require users to provide their age when signing up. In the case of minors, they will need parental consent. Companies are prohibited from collecting data from children under the age of 13 without parental consent under federal law. For this reason, social networks already prohibit registration on their platforms, but children can easily circumvent them, with or without parental consent, so the challenge lies in applying the new regulations. The state’s consumer authorities have yet to specify how social networks are required to verify both age and consent.
The Department of Consumer Protection must “establish acceptable forms or methods of identification, which may not be limited to a valid government-issued photo ID,” according to the 16-page text of the law, which applies to social networks. More than five million users around the world. Of course, it affects all major companies such as TikTok, Facebook, Instagram, Youtube, Twitter, SnapChat… Tech companies can use privacy threats to appeal the law.
Social media companies are obligated to provide parents or guardians with a password that allows them to access their children’s account and be able to view all publications issued by the minor on the platform and all responses and messages that they send or receive, according to the text.
The new regulation states that social networks must by default prevent the use of accounts of minors under the age of 18 between the hours of 10:30 pm and 6:30 am. However, parents or guardians may modify or cancel this limit.
A second law makes social media companies responsible for meeting those requirements and imposes fines for non-compliance. This 13-page rule also sets out fines of $250,000 for each practice, design or feature of a social network that is found to be addictive, as well as $2,500 for each minor subjected to it. Minors and their guardians may sue companies for damage caused by the use of social networks, subject to that rule.
Utah’s governor signed the laws on the same day the TikTok boss testified before Congress about security risks posed by his company’s ties to the Chinese government and about TikTok’s effects on teens’ mental health. Big tech is in the spotlight for this issue. Health authorities have published alarming data about depression and suicidal thoughts among young people. Seattle Public Schools has sued the technology companies, accusing them of causing serious mental health problems among young people who use addictive apps that exploit the reward system in young people’s brains to keep them coming back to the platforms again and again and generate anxiety. Depression and suicidal thoughts.
Social networks such as YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook have also been criticized for misinformation, hate speech, and concerns about user privacy. Artificial intelligence and new tools are spreading hoaxes that seem increasingly credible. False images circulate these days about Donald Trump being forcibly arrested by the NYPD or Vladimir Putin imprisoned.
Other red states, including Arkansas, Texas, Ohio and Louisiana, have similar proposals in the pipeline, along with Democratic New Jersey, the AP reported. California, for its part, enacted a law last year that requires tech companies to put children’s safety first, preventing them from profiling minors or using personal information in a way that could harm them physically or mentally.
The laws are the latest effort by Utah lawmakers that focus on children and the information they can access online. Two years ago, Cox signed a law requiring tech companies to automatically block pornography on cell phones and tablets sold, citing the risks it poses to children. Concerned about its enforcement, lawmakers in this deeply religious state have revised the law to prevent it from going into effect unless five other states pass similar laws.
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