Florida Passes Law Banning Social Media for Minors Under 14

The legislation prohibits social-media accounts for some teens regardless of parental consent.

Ginger Adams Otis (with inputs from The Wall Street Journal)
First Published26 Mar 2024
Members of Mothers Against Media Addiction (MAMA) are joined by city and state officials and parents to rally outside of Meta's New York offices in support of putting kids before big tech on March 22, 2024 in New York City. The group is seeking legislation against social media companies to protect children and teens from online predators, addictive algorithms and data collection. Numerous studies have shown a link between teen suicide and depression and the use of social media.   Spencer Platt/Getty Images/AFP
Members of Mothers Against Media Addiction (MAMA) are joined by city and state officials and parents to rally outside of Meta’s New York offices in support of putting kids before big tech on March 22, 2024 in New York City. The group is seeking legislation against social media companies to protect children and teens from online predators, addictive algorithms and data collection. Numerous studies have shown a link between teen suicide and depression and the use of social media. Spencer Platt/Getty Images/AFP (Getty Images via AFP)

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed legislation Monday that prohibits people under 14 years old from having social-media accounts, regardless of parental consent, one of the most restrictive laws aimed at curbing social-media access for minors.

Under the new law, social-media companies are required to close accounts believed to be used by minors under 14. The platforms must also cancel accounts at the request of parents or minors, and all information from the accounts must be deleted.

The law is set to take effect on Jan. 1, 2025.

Minors who are 14- or 15-years old can obtain a social-media account with parental consent, according to the new law. Accounts already belonging to teens of that age must be deleted if a parent or guardian hasn’t consented.

“Being buried in those devices all day is not the best way to grow up—it’s not the best way to get a good education,” DeSantis, a Republican, said at an event commemorating the bill signing on Monday.

The law doesn’t name specific platforms, but targets social-media sites that rely on features such as notification alerts and autoplay videos that encourage compulsive viewing.

Supporters of the law have pointed to recent studies linking social media use among young adults to a higher risk of depression and mental-health challenges. It can also make them vulnerable to online bullying and predators.

A representative for Snap declined to comment. A representative for Meta Platforms didn’t immediately comment. Representatives for X and TikTok didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Similar legislation has been proposed in other states, but those bills stop short of the total ban enacted in Florida. A federal judge in Arkansas blocked a law in late August that would have required age verification for social-media users and parental consent for minors’ accounts.

NetChoice, a tech-industry trade association whose members include Facebook parent Meta Platforms, TikTok and Snap, sued to stop the Arkansas law last June. The association brought similar legal challenges to proposed social-media restrictions in California and Ohio.

Some social-media platforms have already taken steps to restrict content shown to young users. On most sites, children under age 13 are protected by data-collection laws, but those typically don’t apply to older minors.

In January, Meta announced new content-filtering measures for teens of all ages.

Instagram and Facebook now automatically restrict teens from harmful content including videos and posts about self-harm, graphic violence and eating disorders. Teens 16 and under are also shielded from sexually explicit content. Previously, teens could choose less stringent settings.

The content restrictions came after more than 40 states sued Meta, alleging the tech company misled the public about the dangers its platforms pose to young people.

Some of those dangers were detailed in The Wall Street Journal’s Facebook Files series in 2021, including an article that showed how Instagram knew its platform was toxic for many teen girls. Meta has said it didn’t design its products to be addictive for teens. 

Write to Ginger Adams Otis at Ginger.AdamsOtis@wsj.com and Victoria Albert at victoria.albert@wsj.com

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