Two bills that Utah’s Gov. Spencer Cox said will protect young people online were signed into law on March 23, 2023 and will take effect in March 2024. S.B. 152 and H.B. 311, the two regulations, come as parents and lawmakers are concerned over social media use and mental health among minors.
S.B. 152 will prohibit children under 18 from using social media between 10:30 p.m. and 6:30 a.m. and requires parental consent for minors to sign up for social media accounts like Facebook, Twitter, and TikTok. This bill also allows parents access to their children’s posts and message. It also outlines the rules of H.B. 311.
“We’re no longer willing to let social media companies continue to harm the mental health of our youth,” Gov. Cox said. “As leaders, and parents, we have a responsibility to protect our young people.”
According to a 2022 survey conducted by Common Sense Media, it found that “the average 8- to 12-year-old spends 5 hours and 33 minutes on social media per day, while the average 13- to 18-year-old spends 8 hours and 39 minutes on social media every day.”
The bills will set a curfew on social media use that can only be adjusted or extended by parents. H.B. 311 also bans social media companies from collecting minors’ data and holds them liable for civil fines of up to $250,000 if they use addictive advertisement or features on minors while on any of the social media platforms.
“Youth rates of depression and other mental health issues are on the rise because of social media companies,” Gov. Cox said.
But critics of the bills said marginalized youth are at a greater risk because many struggle with mental health and turn to social media to find a place to belong.
“We know that marginalized youth, such as LGBTQ kids, use social media in some really important ways to find belonging and support, especially when they don’t have family support,” Sarah Coyne, a professor at Brigham Young University said. “So if you’ve got a 17-year-old who is really struggling with mental health turning to social media to find a place to belong, and their parents are cutting it off or looking at their messages, that can have a really significant negative impact.”
Other states who are considering similar legislation include Arkansas, Ohio, Louisiana, Texas and New Jersey.
“It adds momentum for other states to hold social media companies accountable to ensure kids across the country are protected online,” Jim Steyer, CEO and founder of Common Sense Media, said.