DeSantis signed the social media bill excluding accounts for children under 14

Florida on Monday became the first state to effectively ban residents under 14 from having accounts on services like TikTok and Instagram, passing a tough social media bill that could upend the lives of many young people.

The Key Act, signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis, is one of the most restrictive measures a state has ever enacted in a growing nationwide push to insulate young people from potential mental health and safety risks on social media sites. The law prohibits certain social networks from providing accounts to children under the age of 14 and requires services to terminate accounts that a site knows or believes belong to underage users.

Sites are required to obtain parental permission before providing accounts to 14- and 15-year-olds.

At a press conference on Monday, Mr. DeSantis praised the move, saying it would help parents navigate the “difficult landscape” online. Being “buried” in devices all day isn't the best way to grow, she said.

“Social media harms children in many ways,” said Mr. DeSantis said in a statement. The new bill “gives parents more ability to protect their children.”

Mr. DeSantis had vetoed it. The previous bill would have affected parents' right to make decisions about their children's online activities, the governor said.

The new Florida measure is almost certain to face constitutional challenges to young people's rights to freely seek information and corporations' rights to distribute information.

In response to lawsuits brought by NetChoice, a tech industry trade group representing companies including Meta, Snap and TikTok, federal judges in other states have recently struck down less restrictive online safety laws based on free speech.

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Judges in Ohio and Arkansas, for example, have blocked laws in those states that require some social networks to verify users' ages and obtain parental permission before giving accounts to children under 16 or 18. A federal judge in California has halted a law. In that case, some social networking and video game apps require minors to enable higher privacy settings by default and disable certain features such as auto-playing videos for those users by default.

In addition to social media age restrictions, a new Florida law requires online porn services to use age verification systems to keep minors off their sites.

Apps like Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram already have policies that prohibit children under 13. This is because the federal Children's Online Privacy Protection Act requires some online services to obtain parental consent before collecting personal information such as full names, contact information, and locations. Selfie photos – from children under 13 years of age.

But state regulators say millions of underage children were able to sign up for social media accounts by providing false birth dates.

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