New Florida Bill Aims to Ban Social Media for Kids under 16 Years Old
The digital age has arrived, but the full scope of its impact on human development remains unknown. Members of Gen Z are often called the first “digital natives” due to being the first generation to grow up in a digital world of iPhones, social media, and the internet. Much research is still ongoing regarding social media’s impact on society. Yet the consensus is that, despite its benefits, social media is more damaging than advantageous for young people. For example, prominent social psychologist Jonathan Haidt is outspoken in his assertion that social media is a root cause for today’s epidemic of loneliness, depression, and suicide among young adults.
That social media poses a serious problem and must be addressed is widely accepted. Far less certain is what that response should be. Recently, Florida lawmakers took one of the most extreme responses yet to the issue, passing legislation that would prevent anyone under 16 years old from creating accounts on many of the major social media platforms.
Regarding social media, Republican Representative Fiona McFarland said, “These dopamine hits are so addictive, it’s like a digital fentanyl.” She continued to say that “even the most plugged-in parent or attuned teen has a hard time shutting the door against these addictive features.”
The bipartisan bill passed in the Florida House of Representatives with an overwhelming 106-13 vote. Nevertheless, it faces some legal challenges before it can be passed into law. The strict, wide-reaching proposition has sparked many questions and objections. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis readily acknowledged the “net negative” of social media on today’s youth but questioned whether the bill would lead to government overreach into decisions that are best left up to parents. Similar legislation has been attempted in other states and faced similar obstacles.
The full impact of social media on young people remains unclear. While the emerging digital ecosystem has some advantages, it is also having a profoundly negative influence on juveniles. Whether government interference is the solution to the problem or if that responsibility should remain with parents will likely continue to be a topic of debate.