Utah’s governor has signed two bills that could upend how teens in the state are able to use social media apps. Under the new laws, companies like Meta, Snap and TikTok would be required to get parents permission before teens could create accounts on their platforms. The laws also require curfew, parental controls and age verification features.
The laws could dramatically change how social platforms handle the accounts of their youngest users. In addition to the parental consent and age verification features, the laws also bar companies “from using a design or feature that causes a minor to have an addiction to the company’s social media platform.”
For now, it’s not clear how Utah officials intend to enforce the laws or how they will apply to teenagers’ existing social media accounts. Both laws are scheduled to take effect next March.
The effect that social media can have on teens, particularly younger ones, has been in the spotlight for some time. Earlier this year, the Surgeon General said that “13 is too early,” referring to the minimum age when most platforms allow teens to join. Lawmakers in Congress and in other states have also proposed laws that would limit teens’ ability to use social media apps.
Not everyone agrees that laws restricting teenagers from using social media is the right approach, though. The Electronic Frontier Foundation, an organization that promotes digital rights, has opposed the law, saying it would violate the First Amendment rights of young people. Other groups have voiced similar concerns.