Florida Sets Age Limits for Social Media Use, Aiming to Protect Kids Online

In a significant move aimed at protecting young users online, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has enacted a new law that sets strict age restrictions for social media usage among minors. Effective January 2025, children under 14 years old in Florida will be prohibited from creating social media accounts, marking a decisive step in the state’s efforts to shield its younger population from the potential dangers of online platforms. For those aged 14 and 15, parental consent is now a mandatory prerequisite for social media participation. This legislation, known as HB3, represents a groundbreaking approach to regulating digital spaces in order to safeguard children’s mental health and privacy.

Under the new law, social media companies are required to terminate existing accounts held by users under the age of 14. Failure to comply with this mandate could result in substantial financial penalties, with the possibility of minors affected by the companies’ non-compliance receiving up to $10,000 in damages. Additionally, social media firms found in violation of the law face fines up to $50,000 for each infraction, alongside obligations to cover attorney fees and court costs. Governor DeSantis highlighted the primary aim of the legislation as an initiative to assist parents in navigating the complexities of raising children in a digital age, acknowledging the significant work that went into crafting this regulatory measure.

Previously, Governor DeSantis vetoed a more stringent version of the bill, which would have prohibited social media accounts for individuals under 16 and required Florida residents to present identification for social media account creation. The revised HB3 bill emerges against a backdrop of increasing efforts across the United States to regulate social media platforms, driven by concerns over child safety online and the impact of digital content on young minds.

The push for stricter social media regulation is part of a broader national conversation about the responsibilities of tech companies in ensuring the well-being of their youngest users. Recent months have seen over 200 organizations urging legislative action to protect minors online, with key tech CEOs facing scrutiny from lawmakers over their platforms’ safety measures. Florida House Speaker Paul Renner, among others, has voiced concerns over the negative impacts of social media on children, including vulnerability to mental health issues and exploitation by sexual predators.

However, the law’s introduction has not been without controversy. Critics, including NetChoice LLC—a coalition representing major social media platforms—have signaled intentions to challenge the legislation, arguing that it infringes on First Amendment rights. Despite anticipated legal battles, both Governor DeSantis and Speaker Renner stand firm in their belief in the constitutionality of the law and its necessity for protecting children from the addictive allure of social media.