US state bans social media for children under 14

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed a law restricting social media access for minors under 16 on Monday, as the effects of the platforms on teens generate rising concern in the United States.

Those 13 years old and younger will not be able to open a social media account in the state, and 14- and 15-year-olds will need parental consent to use such platforms.

Despite worries about social media, the law has also raised free speech concerns and comes at a time when right-wing state governments have pushed controversial “parental rights” legislation, notably affecting education.

Lawmakers, DeSantis said, were “trying to help parents navigate this very difficult terrain that we have now with raising kids.”

Speaker of the Florida House Paul Renner said that social media is fraught with risks from traffickers and pedophiles, and that “social media platforms have caused a devastating effect in the mental well being of our children.”

Most platforms require users to be 13 or older, though they do little in terms of enforcement.

Across the country there has been rising concern about the effects of social media on child and teen development and learning.

But the law has also sparked concerns among those worried it sets a precedent for restricting free speech online.

DeSantis, who ran an unsuccessful campaign for president and dropped out in January, has argued many times that parents should have more control over decisions affecting their children, particularly in education.

Parental rights legislation in Florida and other states has sought to give parents more input in areas deemed controversial, especially education around LGBTQ topics in schools.

While the social media ban gives parents oversight on the matter, others say that the government should stay out of such fights altogether.

DeSantis previously vetoed a stricter social media ban, which would have blocked access for those under age 16.

He said at the time that a better balance was needed between competing parental rights, privacy issues and free speech.

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