Opinion: Utah’s shocking new rules for kids and social media

Editor’s note: Kara Alaimo, associate professor of communication at Fairleigh Dickinson University, writes on issues affecting women and social media. Her book, Overinfluence: Why Social Media Is Harmful to Women and Girls—and How We Can Fix It, will be published by Alcove Press in 2024. The opinions expressed in this review are her own.read more comments On CNN.


Utah Republican Gov. Spencer Cox recently signed two bills that severely restrict children’s use of social media platforms. Under legislation that goes into effect next year, social media companies must verify the age of all users in the state, and children under 18 must have a parent’s permission to have an account.

cara alemo

Parents will also be able to access their children’s accounts, apps will not be allowed to display advertisements for children, and children’s accounts will not be available between 10:30 p.m. and 6:30 a.m. without parental permission.

it’s time. America’s social networks have become very dangerous for children, and without the tools and safeguards that this law provides, parents will no longer be able to protect our children. While Cox is right that these measures won’t be “foolproof,” and the actual circumstances of their implementation remain an open question, one thing is clear: Congress should follow Utah’s lead and enact similar laws to protect the Every child in the country.

One of the most important parts of Utah law requires social networks to verify users’ ages. Most apps can now ask a user’s age without proof.Kids can lie about how old they are to avoid some of the features social media companies have created to protect kids — like TikTok’s new setting requiring age 13 to The 17-year-olds entered their passwords after an hour online to prompt them to consider whether to spend that much time on the app.

While critics argue that age verification allows tech companies to collect more data about users, let’s face it: These companies already have a lot of private information about us. To fix this, we need a single (and comprehensive) data privacy law. But until then, such concerns should not stop us from protecting children.

One of the key components of the legislation is allowing parents to access their children’s accounts. In doing so, the law begins to help address one of the greatest dangers children face online: toxic content. I’m talking about the 2,100 pieces of content about suicide, self-harm and depression that 14-year-old Molly Russell in the UK saved, shared or liked in the six months before her suicide last year.

I also talked about the blackout challenge – also known as the swooning or choking challenge – which is popular on social networks. In 2021, four children aged 12 or younger in four different states all died after trying it.

“Check their phones,” urged the father of one of the young victims. “It’s not about privacy — it’s their lives.”

Of course, there are legitimate privacy concerns to worry about here, and just as social media use by children can be deadly, social apps can be used in healthy ways. For example, LGBTQ children who are not accepted by their families or communities can go online to find support that is beneficial for their mental health. Now, their parents may see this content on their account.

It is my hope that groups that serve children questioning their gender and sexual identities and those that work with other vulnerable youth will adapt their online presence to try and serve as a resource for educating parents about inclusion and tolerance. It’s also a reminder that vulnerable children need better access to mental health services like therapy — they’re too young to find the support they need online from their own devices.

But despite these very real privacy concerns, it’s just too dangerous for parents not to know what our kids are seeing on social media. Just as parents and caregivers supervise our children offline and don’t allow them to go to bars or strip clubs, we must ensure they don’t end up in unsafe spaces on social media.

Another huge challenge that Utah law helps parents overcome is the amount of time children spend on social media. A 2022 survey by Common Sense Media found that, on average, 8 to 12-year-olds spend 5 hours and 33 minutes a day on social media, compared to an average of 13 to An 18-year-old spends 8 hours and 39 minutes a day.That’s it more hours than a full-time job.

The American Academy of Pediatrics warns that sleep deprivation has been linked to serious injuries in children — from injuries to depression, obesity and diabetes.so parents There needs to be a way in the US to make sure their kids aren’t on TikTok all night (parents in China don’t have to worry about this because the Chinese version of TikTok doesn’t allow kids to stay on TikTok for more than 40 minutes and can’t be used overnight).

Of course, Utah is not an authoritarian state like China, so you can’t just turn off your children’s cell phones. That’s where this new law requires social networks to enforce these settings. The tougher part of Utah’s law for tech companies to enforce will be a provision requiring social apps to ensure they’re not designed to make kids addicted.

Social networks are addictive in nature because they feed our desire for connection and validation. But the threat of being sued by children who claim they have been addicted or otherwise harmed by social networks — and the law provides an avenue for that — will force tech companies to think carefully about how they structure their algorithms and features, as seen in bottomless Up is actually a feed designed to keep users glued to the screen.

TikTok and Snap did not respond to CNN’s request for comment on the Utah law, while a representative for Facebook parent Meta said the company’s goal is to keep Facebook safe for children, but also wants it to be accessible.

Of course, if the social network had been more accountable, it might not have gotten this far. But in America, tech companies take advantage of the lack of rules to build platforms that can be dangerous for our children.

The states finally stopped talking. In addition to Utah’s measures, California passed a sweeping online safety law last year. Connecticut, Ohio and Arkansas are also considering laws to protect children by regulating social media. A proposed bill in Texas would not allow children to use social media at all.

Many children’s experiences on social media are not innocent. This law will help Utah parents protect their children. Parents in other states need the same support. Now is the time for the federal government to step up and ensure that children across the country enjoy the same protections as children in Utah.

Suicide and Crisis Lifeline: Call or text 988. Lifeline provides 24/7 free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you and your loved ones, and best practices from America’s professionals. spanish: Linea de Prevención del Suidio y Crisis: 1-888-628-9454.

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