By Sarah Newton-John • 24 March 2023 • 9:22
Social media interferes with kids sleep/Shutterstock Images
Utah in the west of the USA has become the first state to require social media firms get parental consent for children to use their apps and verify users are at least 18.
The move comes amidst growing concern over the impact of social media on the mental health of children. (Some statistics on this issue are given below.)
The governor of the Utah, (sometimes referred to as “the Mormon state” as slightly over half of all Utahns are Mormons) said he signed the two sweeping measures on Thursday March 23 to protect young people.
The bills will give parents full access to their children’s online accounts, including posts and private messages.
Also under these measures a parent or guardian’s explicit consent will be needed before children can create accounts on apps such Instagram, Facebook and TikTok.
The bills also impose a social media curfew, blocking children’s daily access between 22:30 and 06:30, unless adjusted by their parents.
The two bills – which are also designed to make it easier to take legal action against social media companies – will take effect on March 1, 2024.
Under the legislation, social media companies will no longer be able to collect a child’s data or be targeted for advertising.
Governor Spencer Cox, a Republican, wrote on Twitter: “We’re no longer willing to let social media companies continue to harm the mental health of our youth.
“As leaders, and parents, we have a responsibility to protect our young people.”
Children’s advocacy organisation, Commons Sense Media praised the governor’s move to curtail some of social media’s most addictive features, calling it a “huge victory for kids and families in Utah”.
“It adds momentum for other states to hold social media companies accountable to ensure kids across the country are protected online,” said Jim Steyer, Common Sense Media’s founder and CEO.
The passing of the Utah bills coincides with a confronting congressional hearing for TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew.
Around 95% of adolescents (10-19 years-olds) have access to a smartphone and, not surprisingly, around 45% report being online “almost constantly”. Spending more than 3 hours on social media per day puts adolescents at a higher risk for mental health problems. Adolescents who spend too much time on social media have more trouble falling asleep, and increased insomnia and depression.
Eighth-graders who spend over 10 hours on social media per week are 56% more likely to report being unhappy than those who spend less time on social media
59% of US teens experienced cyberbullying or online harassment. 90% say they think this harassment is a problem that affects other people their age. 63% say that it’s a major problem.
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