States Pursue Changes to Social Media for Minors

by Briana Sisler ‘24

In the past few years many legislators in states across the country have raised concerns about the impact of social media on minors. As a result, a wave of laws are restricting or banning access to social media. California passed legislation to require privacy and safety settings for minors on social media; Utah signed a law creating restrictions and curfews for minors on social media; Arkansas passed a bill requiring parental consent and age verification for minors on social media; and many other states, including Maryland, are pondering social media restrictions for minors. Some states are even passing legislation to ban social media sites altogether.

Parents and lawmakers are in unanimous agreement that social media has adverse effects on teenagers and children. A Facebook whistleblower has revealed that Meta is aware of the harmful effects that social media has on minors. Restrictions to social media focus on increasing the mental health of minors; however, less access to social media may do the opposite. Some minors, especially in the LGBTQ+ community, look to social media for communities, resources, and sometimes help. Minors have been able to use the internet to find support when they were lacking it at home. These restrictions have the potential to prevent teenagers from utilizing the internet.

Utah’s restrictions on social media are one of the more recent pushes by states to make social media safer for minors. While the implementation of these restrictions are still in progress, Louisiana’s digital driver’s license app is providing inspiration. Social media users would need to provide age verification, potentially with a digital driver’s license app, and if they do not provide verification they will use a minor account. This is to ensure that minors do not need to give their personal data to a social media company. Arkansas’s restrictions on social media are another more recent push. However, the implementation of its restrictions seem to have more hiccups. The bill includes a list of specific exemptions which potentially leave only Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to face the restrictions. This invalidates the reason for restrictions due to the ever growing number of social media platforms and companies available to children outside of those three.