Florida lawmakers approve ban on social media accounts for children under 16

Florida lawmakers have fast-tracked legislation that forces social media companies to keep most minors off their platforms.

The legislation, which passed the state House Thursday after earlier being approved by the Senate, now heads to Gov. Ron DeSantis’s (R) desk, though he says he’s not quite ready to sign on.

DeSantis told reporters Friday that he thinks there needs to be a “proper balance” between government regulations and parental input on the social media issue.

“We’ll be wrestling with that,” he said.

The governor said he’ll be assessing the final version of the legislation likely through the weekend.

“Federal law says 13 and under can’t have social media accounts. That’s not really enforced,” he said.

DeSantis, who suspended his bid for the GOP’s 2024 presidential nomination in January, has been an advocate of reining in media and conversations available to children outside of family atmospheres. He championed efforts to censor public school books and discussions of sexuality in public schools.

The lawmakers who championed the proposed social media ban, which would require platforms check the ages of users through a third-party source, argue it will make the online landscape safer for youths.

A Pew Research Survey in 2023 found that a third of teens aged 13 to 17 said they use the most popular social media platforms “almost constantly.” It also found that smartphone ownership is nearly universal among teens surveyed — spanning all genders, age groups, economic backgrounds and races and ethnicities.

“It’s time to take decisive action to protect our most vulnerable population – children,” Florida state Sen. Erin Grall (R), one of the bill’s leading sponsors, wrote on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter.

“We’re talking about businesses that are using addictive features to engage in mass manipulation of our children to cause them harm,” Grall further said on the Florida Senate floor Thursday.

The legislation passed 108-7 in the state House and 23-14 in the Florida Senate within a matter of hours Thursday.

Grall, a Florida attorney and mother of three kids, didn’t immediately respond to The Hill’s requests for comment.

Representatives for Snapchat, TikTok, and Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment. X’s press office autoreplied to a request for comment with the message: “Busy now, please check back later.”

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