New Utah Law Restricts Minors' Use of Social Media

First-in-the-nation law gives parents access to accounts of children, teens
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 24, 2023 4:50 AM CDT
New Utah Law Restricts Minors' Use of Social Media
Gov. Spencer Cox signs two social media regulation bills during a ceremony at the Capitol building in Salt Lake City on Thursday, March 23, 2023.   (Trent Nelson/The Salt Lake Tribune via AP)

A new Utah law that tightly restricts how minors can use social media apps like TikTok and Instagram is the first of its kind in the nation—and while its supporters say it's all about "protecting our children," campaigners including civil liberties groups hope other states don't follow suit. The Utah Social Media Regulation Act signed into law by Gov. Spencer Cox Thursday requires age verification and permission from parents before minors can open social media accounts, the New York Times reports. It also bans people under 18 from using social media platforms between 10:30pm and 6:30am unless a parent changes the settings. It also requires sites to give parents access to their children's accounts, including private messages.

The bill is due to take effect on March 1 next year. Its sponsor, Republican state Sen. Michael McKell, says depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts have "drastically increased" among teens. "I believe this bill is the best path forward to prevent our children from succumbing to the negative and sometimes life-threatening effects of social media," he said in a statement to CNN. "This is something that is killing our kids," Cox said earlier this month, per the Salt Lake Tribune. He said the "addictive qualities of social media" are "intentionally being placed by these companies to get our kids addicted." He signed a second bill Thursday banning social media companies from using features or techniques that could cause addiction among minors.

Lawmakers in states including Connecticut and Ohio are considering similar restrictions and analysts say that if enough states bring in legislation, it could lead to a federal law. Dr. Sarah Coyne, a professor of child development at Brigham Young University, warned that the law could cut off a lifeline for vulnerable youth, the Times reports. "We know that marginalized youth, such as LGBTQ kids, use social media in some really important ways to find belonging and support, especially when they don’t have family support," she said. "So if you’ve got a 17-year-old who is really struggling with mental health turning to social media to find a place to belong, and their parents are cutting it off or looking at their messages, that can have a really significant negative impact." (More social media stories.)

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