The Florida House passed a bill Wednesday banning children under the age of 16 from creating accounts on social media platforms – even with parental approval – in efforts to keep children from growing up “hooked” on social media.
House Bill 1, which is sponsored by Republican Rep. Tyler Sirois, passed with a 106-13 bipartisan vote. Supporters argue that children are more exposed to bullying and sexual predators on social media, and use can lead to depression, suicide and addiction.
“They’re taking advantage of kids growing up. That’s their business model. And why do they do it? To keep them hooked … with the dopamine hits that the platform gives our children with every autoplay, with every like, with every push notification,” Sirois said toKids The Associated Press.
Though the bill doesn’t explicitly name which platforms would be affected, it targets any social media platform that tracks user activity, allows users to upload material and interact with others, and uses addictive features. Apps used solely for private messaging between individuals would not be impacted.
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Republican House Speaker Paul Renner said the bill should withstand constitutional scrutiny because it focuses on the addictive features of social media, not the content.
“It’s a situation where kids can’t stay off the platforms, and as a result of that, they have been trapped in an environment that harms their mental health,” said Renner, who has made social media addiction and its impact on children one of his top priorities.
He continued on X, formerly Twitter, Wednesday: “We must address the harmful effects social media platforms have on the development and well-being of our kids. Florida has a compelling state interest and duty to protect our children, their mental health, and their childhood.”
The bill would force social media companies to shut down accounts believed to be used by minors and to cancel minors’ accounts at their request or their parents. All information related to the account must also be deleted.
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Democratic Rep. Michele Rayner shared on the House floor some of the comments she received on X after referencing her deceased mother while announcing support for the bill, which included “your mother sucks” and “your mom was stupid.”
“I’m 42-years old … and comments like these were a gut punch to me, but I was able to navigate,” she said. “Imagine what our babies have to deal with when they have their friends in school doing the same cyberbullying to them.”
Opponents of the bill said it violates the First Amendment, takes away the benefits some children may get from social media, and said parents should determine if their children can be on social media.
Democratic Rep. Anna Eskamani said she found comfort and support on social media when she was 13 after her mother died.
“I think the intention of those who have filed (the bill) is absolutely golden. We have a concern about the impact of social media on our young people,” Eskamani said. “I just find the solution that you propose too broad and casts a wide net with unintended consequences.”
Meta, which owns a handful of social media platforms, asked the House to consider requiring parental approval instead of banning the apps for children under 16. It also would like the issue to be addressed at the federal level to avoid a variety of state laws on the topic.
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“Many teens today leverage the internet and apps to responsibly gather information and learn about new opportunities, including part-time jobs, higher education, civic or church gatherings, and military service,” Meta representative Caulder Harvill-Childs wrote to the House Judiciary Committee. “By banning teens under 16, Florida risks putting its young people at a disadvantage versus teens elsewhere.”
The bill now moves to the Senate.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.