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U.S. state bars under-15 children from having social media accounts

According to reports, those who are 14 or 15 years old will need a parent’s consent before they join a platform.

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Florida State Governor Ron DeSantis has signed a bill prohibiting children younger than 14 years from joining social media.

According to reports, those who are 14 or 15 years old will need a parent’s consent before they join a platform.

The bill, HB3, also directs social media companies to delete the existing accounts of those who are under 14.

HB3, which is slated to take effect in January 2025, comes as efforts to regulate social media continue to ramp up across the U.S., amid concerns from some parents that the platforms don’t do enough to keep their kids safe online.

Companies that fail to do so could be sued on behalf of the child who creates an account on the platform, and the minor could be awarded up to $10,000 in damages, according to the bill.

In addition, companies found to be in violation of the law would also be liable for up to $50,000 per violation, as well as attorney’s fees and court costs.

“Ultimately, we’re trying to help parents navigate this very difficult terrain that we have now with raising kids, and so I appreciate the work that’s been put in,” DeSantis said in his remarks during the bill-signing ceremony.

In December, over 200 organisations sent a letter urging Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to schedule a vote on the Kids Online Safety Act, or KOSA, which seeks to create liability, or a “duty of care,” for apps and online platforms that recommend content to minors that can negatively affect their mental health.

Following the letter, in January, lawmakers grilled CEOs from TikTok, X, and Meta about online child safety.

The tech executives reaffirmed their commitment to child safety and pointed to the various tools they offer as examples of how they are proactive about preventing exploitation online.

Florida House Speaker Paul Renner and other advocates of the new law argue that social media use can harm children’s mental health and can lead to sexual predators communicating with minors.

“None of us can afford to be on the sidelines when it comes to social media,” Renner said in remarks made at the bill signing.

Florida’s law is also expected to face legal challenges over claims that it violates the First Amendment.

“We’re disappointed to see Gov. DeSantis sign onto this route. There are better ways to keep Floridians, their families, and their data safe and secure online without violating their freedoms,” Carl Szabo, vice president and general counsel for NetChoice, said in an email, calling the law “unconstitutional.”

However, DeSantis argued the bill is constitutionally sound.

“Any time I see a bill, if I don’t think it’s constitutional, I veto it,” he said while describing the bill as “a fair application of the law and Constitution.”

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