Florida bans social media for under-14s in restrictive new law for children

26 March 2024, 09:45 | Updated: 26 March 2024, 09:50

Children under 14 will be banned from joining social media in Florida from next year.
Children under 14 will be banned from joining social media in Florida from next year. Picture: Alamy/Getty

By Emma Soteriou

Florida has banned all children under the age of 14 from using social media in a bid to give parents more power to "protect" their kids.

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Children aged 14 and 15 will need permission from parents to use platforms such as Instagram and TikTok, with them only being allowed to use social media freely from the age of 16.

The bill defines harmful content as "lacking serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value for minors", along with "patently offensive" representations of sexual conduct.

It requires apps and websites to verify the age of users, either through the individuals themselves or anonymously through a third party.

Companies that fail to delete accounts face being sued on behalf of children as well as being fined up to $50,000 for each violation.

The law is set to come into force from January next year. However, several firms are expected to challenge it, claiming it violates the US constitution.

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Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis initially had version of the bill that banned all under-16s from social media.

He then worked with Florida House Speaker Paul Renner to form a compromise and alter the age to under-14s.

"Social media harms children in a variety of ways," Mr DeSantis said after signing the bill.

"HB 3 gives parents a greater ability to protect their children."

Mr Renner said: "The internet has become a dark alley for our children where predators target them and dangerous social media leads to higher rates of depression, self-harm, and even suicide.

"Thanks to Governor DeSantis' signature, Florida leads the way in protecting children online as states across the country fight to address these dangers."

He added that "a child in their brain development doesn't have the ability to know that they're being sucked into these addictive technologies".

Mr Renner said he knew social media firms would "sue the second this is signed", but added: "We're going to beat them.

"We're going to beat them and we're never, ever going to stop."

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