Florida lawmakers expected to move quickly to limit social media for children

Florida lawmakers will be pushing this session to keep children younger than 16 years old off social media.

Bills are being considered in the House and Senate that would require social media companies to verify a user’s age.

Lawmakers say something needs to be done to combat what they say are social media’s “devastating effects” on children and teens.

Both versions of the bill:

Would require social media platforms to ban all children under 16 from creating an accountWould require platforms to use reasonable age verifications to check the ages of the people creating accountsWould require accounts be denied if a user does not verify their age

One of the measures (HB 1), sponsored by Rep. Tyler Sirois, R-Merritt Island, and Rep. Fiona McFarland, R-Sarasota, would also require social media platforms to terminate existing accounts that are “reasonably known” by the platforms to be held by minors younger than 16 and would allow parents to request that minors’ accounts be terminated.

The bills were filed late Friday.

On the first day of the session on Tuesday, House Speaker Paul Renner, R-Palm Coast, listed statistics from a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention survey that was published last February based on research done with high schoolers in 2021.

“When asked, ‘Have you experienced persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness within last year,’ 57% said yes,” Renner said. “‘Have you experienced poor mental health and the past 30 days?’ 41% said yes. When asked, ‘Have you seriously considered suicide within the last year,’ 30% said yes. This is the legacy of social media, and it is a global problem. But it cannot be the fate of our children, and we must act.”

The House Regulatory Reform & Economic Development Subcommittee will take up the bills, which are priorities for Renner.

Another bill (HB 3), sponsored by Rep. Chase Tramont, R-Port Orange, would require age verification to try to prevent people under age 18 from having access to online content such as pornography.

Similar efforts made across the country have proven to be complicated and contentious.

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