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Utah bans under-18s from using social media

Posted on the 3rd April 2023

Utah phone ban

Sweeping new regulations have seen Utah become the first US state to require social media firms to obtain parental consent for children to use their apps and verify users are at least 18.

Governor Spencer Cox said he introduced the measures to protect young people in the state amidst growing concerns over the impact of social media on children's mental health.

The new legislation will also give parents full access to their children's online accounts, including posts and private messages. It also prohibits social media companies from employing techniques that could cause minors to develop an ‘addiction’ to the platforms.

The move prohibits minors from accessing social media without their parents’ consent and requires the platforms to block users younger than 18 from accessing accounts between 10.30 pm and 6.30 am unless parents modify the settings.

The laws also prohibit social media companies from advertising to minors, collecting information about them, or targeting content at them.

In 2022, California state lawmakers passed their own child data law.

Among other measures, the California Age-Appropriate Design Code Act requires digital platforms to make the highest privacy features for under-18 users a default setting.

While there is support for increased privacy measures, a debate is ongoing as to how the states plan to enforce the new regulations.

Additionally, civil liberties groups have raised concerns that the new provisions will block marginalized youth, including LGBTQ+ teens, from accessing online support networks and information.

Tech groups have also opposed the laws.

Earlier this year, a study by academics at Swansea University revealed that participants who reduced their social media consumption noted a number of benefits, including an average 15 per cent improvement in immune function, a 50 per cent improvement in sleep quality, and 30 per cent fewer depressive symptoms.

Related: New study reveals health impact of social media use

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