Utah just passed new legislation that will be the most restrictive in the country toward teens’ access to social media platforms, many of which have been shown to correlate with negative mental health outcomes for developing brains. You can listen or read an interview with Utah’s governor about their goals at NPR. A few facets of the bill:
- Minors (under age 18) would be required to have parental consent to join a social media platform.
- Minor accounts cannot be accessed between the hours of 10:30 PM and 6:30 AM.
- Parents must be given access to their minor childrens’ social media accounts.
- Age verification is required for anyone in the state opening a new social media account to prove that they are 18 years old (e.g. driver’s license).
There are a few things here that I like, and a few that I think are problematic. First, as a middle-aged adult, of course I yearn for the halcyon days of my youth when the biggest problems that plagued parents were too much hair mousse and teen pregnancy. It feels much harder to (have) parent(ed) kids whose lives are increasingly online, in communities that are largely invisible to us. I can’t give the stink-eye to my kids’ rotten friends if they aren’t physically at the house in front of me (my kids’ friends have also all been respectable, but you know, theoretically). Aside from that, and despite my best efforts, I just don’t get the appeal of platforms like Instagram and TikTok. When I found out my daughter had a Finsta, I had a flash of hurt feelings thinking she was trying to keep me from seeing the “real” her, but then I realized that it was more about social groups and less about me as a parent (and since I look at Instagram about once every 3 months, it’s not like I’m really seeing her stuff anyway). Not one of my kids is on Facebook which is an “old person platform.”
I am concerned about the amount of time kids and young adults are spending online, including the late hours, and it only got worse during the pandemic. Missing school and missing college classes after spending hours online overnight doesn’t seem like a good tradeoff. These social media rabbit holes lead to lives that can be, if not isolated (I consider online communities to be social interactions after all), then a bad prioritization of how to spend one’s time–even my kids (as adults) agree with that, and how it can lead to feeling depressed.
Parents’ rights has become a new hobby horse for conservatives, usually in the realm of education. Consider the “Don’t Say Gay” legislation in Florida or the “anti-CRT” legislation that is designed to give parents the right to object to content that they say makes their child uncomfortable. In reality, the issue is that these are topics that seem to make some parents uncomfortable, primarily conservatives who don’t want to be seen as racist or homophobic or transphobic, especially if they are. Will eliminating access to the truth about slavery or allowing kids to see that homosexual teachers and parents exist and are normal result in kids’ not questioning their parents’ values and behaviors? Maybe.
On the upside, parental involvement in their kids’ education and social lives can be a positive. Kids can’t parent themselves; parents need to be informed. Parents can help prevent things like cyberbullying and restrictions may prevent some of the most vulnerable kids from predators. Schools should be accountable to local communities and responsive to their needs, and parents should be involved with their kids’ schools.
On the downside, an emphasis on parental rights in education is leading to more and more teachers leaving the field due to fear of legal retribution if a rogue parent decides to go full Karen and sue them over a harmless remark in some states that are using litigation as the means to enforce their anti-LGBT or anti-CRT agendas. There are inherent conflicts of interest between parents. Which parents get to decide on community education priorities? Marginalized and mintority members of the community are often shouted down when parental rights are emphasized. The loudest voices, the majority, those with privilege, often carry the day. Parents also may not be educated themselves on topics like education, and since most of us grew up with a somewhat white-washed version of history, we may not be in a position to understand a more informed approach.
Lastly, to bring us back to the topic of social media and parents’ rights, there is a unique element to this legislation that is potentially problematic. No doubt, some conservatives are hopeful that eliminating access to online support communities will also stem the tide of young people self-identifying as queer or trans. If everyone is back in the closet, it (re)creates a high hurdle to coming out by eliminating the online social support communities who share their stories of coming out. If parents are unsupportive, these types of intrusions can even lead to teens feeling paranoid and hopeless and can exacerbate suicidal ideation or lead to conflicts that result in parents kicking their kids out or using debunked approaches like conversion therapy.
Parental monitoring of social media activity is problematic in the most basic way possible. Where do teens go to explore their private thoughts, to find like-minded peers, to determine their own burgeoning adult values, if Mom & Dad are literally always watching? It sounds like a dystopian hellscape. Teen me would have been fine since my parents weren’t that interested and would never have even considered something snoopy like reading my diary. Parents who want access to all their teens’ private thoughts are frankly the last ones who should be granted such access. We want to protect kids, but we have a problem with being more attuned to external threats like online predators while ignoring the far more pervasive threats of parental control and domestic violence. We worry more about stranger-danger rape than all-too-common incest.
Back to the 4 facets of this legislation, here’s how I grade each one:
- Parental consent for minors to join social media. B- I’m mostly agnostic on this one. It probably will just create a sub-group of weird kids whose parents don’t let them on social media. Normal parents will probably mostly allow it. Social norms and peer pressure will prevail.
- Minor accounts not being allowed access between 10:30 and 6:30. A+ I love this one, honestly. I wish I had a time machine to go back and make this happen for my own kids, and maybe even for myself. I truly see no downside to this one.
- Parents given access to their kids’ social media. D- This one is pretty dangerous, IMO, in terms of doing more harm than good to kids’ mental health and its chilling effect on LGBT kids. It probably depends on the kid and the parent just how much this creates a thought police state in which the kid feels they are being controlled and monitored. This one mostly exacerbates the damage bad parents will do, or so I think. Normal parents are going to probably not intervene unless there’s a real concern, and it could be good in some cases if so, but I’m not sure whether that makes up for the harm done by bad parents.
- Age verification for all new social media accounts. No grade, really. This is just something you obviously have to do for any of this to be possible (to have different rules for minors).
There’s one other effect that I didn’t mention that could occur. When I first got to BYU as an 18 YO, one of the weird culture shocks I experienced was that my new Utah friends had never heard the song “Physical,” and had only heard a censored version of “I Want Your Sex,” two songs that were mainstream popular when I was in high school (although not personal favorites). I was culture shocked a little bit to discover that due to them growing up in Utah, they had a slightly sanitized version of things that were just in the normal cultural milieu where I had grown up. I suspect that legislative actions like this will have a similar effect as Utah teens become adults and eventually integrate into larger society. Time will tell what that will look like.
As I think about this parents’ rights trend, I am reminded of a line from one of my favorite old movies, a Bette Davis film called Now, Voyager. Davis plays a wealthy spinster with a controlling mother who has a mental breakdown, goes to therapy, then falls in love with a married man whose daughter has similar mental health issues. In the movie, her psychiatrist Dr. Jacquith confronts her controlling mother Mrs. Vale. Mrs. Vale is angry at having her decisions thwarted and undermined by this newly independent daughter. She rages at the doctor about her rights as a parent.
“A mother’s rights, twaddle. A child has rights, a person has rights, to discover her own mistakes, to make her own way, ..”Dr. Jaquith, Now, Voyager
Perhaps this is just the age-old tension between kids growing up and learning to be adults and parents learning how to let them. In that struggle, both are subject to paranoia. It’s a U-curve prone to bad outcomes at both extremes: too many controls and too few. While I think the educational emphasis on parents’ rights has been extremely detrimental, this social media approach is more of a mixed bag.
I’m sure every social media company will fight against this, but it seems like something they will have a hard time winning, especially since most of them currently take efforts to provide limits for minors, but without actually knowing who’s really a minor and who’s not.
- Will Utah teens be culturual oddities like the stereotype of Evangelical homeschool kids or will they be like the well-adjusted kids the legislation is hoping to create?
- How would you rate the Utah legislation?
- Are you in favor of parents’ rights? Are you concerned about the downsides?
To be honest, if this were in another state I would probably view it differently. But because it’s in Utah, I’m immediately wary and judgemental which isn’t a good look on me. That said, I don’t know that this is something that should be legislated – how to parent.
I don’t have an issue with having parental permission to join a social media app. I thought that was a box that already had to be checked. But let’s be honest, any teen can check the box on their own. If ALL apps, on their own, required verification of parental permission (a license) or verification for those who claim to be over 18 (again a license) that would be a better solution to me. I also think there would be backlash, potential lawsuits, and a lot of fake IDs uploaded, which will probably be what happens in Utah anyway.
If a minor has a phone, which their parents probably bought and are paying for, they already have the option to limit usage through apps, so limiting the hours is already available for those who want to do that instead of banning everyone during specific times. Additionally, there are parents who require their children to “friend” or “follow” them on their social media accounts as a condition of having the phone, so that is already an option. Controlling parents will control their children with or without legislation. Nurturing parents will develop open relationships with their children and don’t require legislation. Uninvolved parents don’t care either way.
Legislating parenting is odd to me, but not surprising in a strong Mormon culture where controlling others’ behavior is the norm. It seems to be that the means to accomplish the conditions of this legislation already exist for those that want to parent that way, but now everyone has to comply whether they want to or not. It’s a good thing the church believes in personal choice and not being compelled in all things. Oh wait…
Interesting seeing red-state Utah enacting laws that insert the government so directly in its citizens’ family and personal lives – a perfect example of the “nanny state” they would typically deride. But of course, if it’s policies they support, government interference is A-okay. While I agree that the new phenomenon of social media can have many negative consequences, especially for youth, I’m not so sure that government regulation will fix these problems. Like any major new cultural development or phenomenon, there will be a period of adjustment and adaptation, and I tend to think the biggest problems will get ironed out over time based on people’s own choices and figuring out how to more responsibly manage it in their lives (wow, does that sound like a free-market solution? maybe so).
I agree with the OP that this regulation could make Utah kids look more weird. The church these days seems to be so fear-based and all about giving up agency and experience for the sake of spiritual “safety” and remaining pure and unsullied from the world. But this is the antithesis of the church’s fundamental doctrines on why we come to mortality in the first place, and seems to give little weight to the mercy and grace of Christ and his atonement.
I’m curious to see how these laws can possibly be enforced. Lets say Utah gives Facebook access to birthdate and drivers license numbers for everyone in the state. That means my teen just needs my drivers license number, which they can probably snag from my wallet while I’m in the shower. But also, how is Instagram going to know that this new account needs to be approved by me? Will ID from any adult work? Or is the state of Utah going to provide every social media company a list of every Utah adults name and all of their children’s names? Otherwise, can’t an older sibling or the friend with the “cool parents” pretend to be my kids parents and let them do whatever they want? What about people living in Utah that have out of state IDs? Can’t my kid just wait until we are out of state on a vacation and sign up for everything on their phone while we drive through Nevada? And finally, anyone who knows how to work a VPN can get around this in 2 seconds, right?
Kids need parents, and they need involved parents. But I don’t see how the state mandating that snapchat be their parents is going to work at all. For parents and kids who already have good communication about social media with it’s pros and cons, this legislation isn’t going to do anything they aren’t already doing themselves. For parents and kids with extreme rebellion, it’s also not going to do anything. If parents haven’t figured out how to keep motivated kids away from sex, drugs and honky tonks by now, this isn’t going to change it. Maybe there are a few kids somewhere in the middle that this might help a bit, but I’m just not seeing much impact here.
Will W&T have to start verifying driver’s licenses for posters?
All this legislation to me misses the mark. Which is pretty much the same way I feel about all rules in the church’s playbook.
Parenting is work. Creating an environment where your kid can learn how to use social media responsibly should be the goal. Any rules-based approach will have the unintended consequences of kids spending their time getting around the rules. Imagine if that time were instead invested in the following:
Teaching a class in school (or having an assembly) about how to use and consume social media responsibly and how to identify and report cyber bullying;
Requiring new account holders to participate in a 15-minute training about how to use the particular social media app in a healthy way (and maybe requiring a refresh annually);
Creating a church second hour class with parents and youth discussing how to use and consume social media responsibly and how to identify and report cyber bullying;
Create resources for parents about how to approach social media with their kids;
Develop a way for parents to be able to check in on their kids social media accounts periodically (I don’t know enough about tech or privacy laws here so not sure how feasible this is).
No solution is perfect but I would much prefer a dialogue-based approach as opposed to a rules-based approach. But checklists are easier and the MO of Utah culture so here we are.
Also I was disappointed in Gov Cox glib attitude about this whole thing. Rather than welcome feedback he dug in his heels and welcomed lawsuits.
Why is it that in Utah (a state in which I now reside but I didn’t grow up here) there seems to be the following beliefs:
1. kids who see alcohol being made in front of them will drink or want to drink ?
2. pornography is a public health crisis
3. social media is destroying our youth
4. any substance abuse = addiction
5. we believe in small government but we want government to do something about #1-4
Utah seems a bit schizophrenic in how they try to regulate morality and child rearing. In 2018, they were the first state to pass “free-range parenting” laws, essentially a package of laws that allows parents to let their kids to roam freely at all hours of the day with no adult supervision, as well as turning a blind eye to other forms of neglect that are common among families with more kids than they can reasonably take care of. Not surprisingly, Mike Lee supported it enthusiastically, in the spirit of pushing back against perceived government overreach in telling families how to raise their kids. A few years before, conservative Utahns fought back against the common core curriculum standards, mainly due to right-wing fearmongering about “new math” and other such nonsense. Utah also seems to be leading the push for expanded school choice and voucher programs, and has long been a haven for homeschool families. In measurable areas like per-child spending on public education and teacher salaries, Utah is perennially in a race to the bottom.
On the other hand, Utah also engages in forceful government intervention with other educational and child development issues. Things like abstinence-only sex education, declaring porn to be a “public health crisis” (while ignoring the measurable uptick in youth suicides, gun violence, opioids and other very real threats to public health), banning certain books from libraries, restrictions on queer and trans kids, blocking access to life-saving reproductive healthcare, and now a ham-fisted attempt to enact sweeping social media restrictions. Utahns want the government to stop telling them how to raise their kids, unless it happens to be related to an issue that aligns with their quirky, often backwards religiously-connected social values. It’s absolutely crazymaking. When a disproportionate majority of a state’s lawmakers and politicians belong to a single, wealthy, high-demand religious sect, they may publicly claim to love democracy, but the quiet part they don’t say out loud is that they really want an absolute theocracy that demands strict obedience, with them in positions of power.
Ultimately, regulating a teen’s social media use is the parent’s responsibility, not the government’s, however well-intentioned. Utah has bigger problems to deal with that are more deserving of their legislative time than this.
I’m very concerned about the requirement to provide ID. Adults shouldn’t have to always identify themselves to use social media platforms, that’s dangerous.
Also, small social media platforms may find this requirement difficult or impossible to comply with. Will W&T need to start checking ID before allowing comments, for example? Surely we can see why it’s useful for folks on here to maintain their anonymity.
I agree with Bryce Cook that we are still in a transition phase with social media, and eventually society will figure out and settle on the best ways to deal with social media and kids (and adults, for that matter).
I also think that DaveW makes some great points about how on earth the age verification process is going to work. I don’t know exactly how they intend to perform age verification, but it seems like kids will be able to easily get around many ways of age verification. If there really isn’t a solid age verification system in place, then none of this will work.
As a parent who just recently sent two kids off to college, I struggled with how to handle social media with my kids. We gave our kids flip phones in middle school, and only allowed upgrading to a smartphone when they were sophomores in high school. They certainly didn’t like that at all since most of their friends had a smartphone and social media access in middle school (which led to lots of problems that we heard about). We also held off on social media on their smartphones until they were juniors in high school (although I was aware that one of the kids got on social media behind my back since they aren’t as good at being sneaky as think they are, and I just pretended I didn’t know about it). Our kids also disliked this policy as well since there were only a few other kids not on social media by that time.
We had lots of discussions about how to use technology and social media before we let them start using it. Once we allowed social media, we didn’t really have rules or anything like that in place, but we did continue to talk. I have to say that both kids, and especially one of them, chose to consume social media a lot more than I thought was a good idea once they had access. We’d had our discussions about social media (and they continued), and they honestly weren’t consuming any more social media than their friends were, so we let them make their own choices, but it just didn’t seem that healthy to me. It appears to me that their social media usage has actually decreased since going to college, so that’s a good sign.
My biggest struggle as a parent through middle school and high school was that I felt that social media wasn’t really good for kids their age, yet almost all of the other kids had access to it. It really is true that if everyone else is on social media, but your kid isn’t, that they are going to miss out on a lot of information. Yeah, some of that information is negative, so it’s probably good that they don’t have it, but some of that information is good. Kids plan activities on social media, kids communicate in constructive ways on social media, kids work on school project on social media, so if you kid isn’t on social media, they really are missing out on things that are important (and good) for a kid’s social life. My wish as a parent back then would have been that the majority of parents chose to hold off on smartphones and social media until some point in high school (definitely not middle school). There was a ton of pressure to cave in on my kids’ desire for these things since everyone else had them, and my kids really were starting to miss out on things. If a large number of other parents had stuck with flip phones for their kids, then this pressure wouldn’t have been there, and honestly nearly all the positive aspects of having a phone for a teen can be accomplished with just texting and calling. Most of the other features besides social media that a smartphone provides are also fine. It really is social media that is concerning to me for kids that age. Maybe I was just a “boomer” parent overly concerned about the latest thing in my kids’ generation that no one will be worried about in the next generation. I guess only time will tell.
I did insist that I have the ability to login to my kids’ phones in high school, but I never used that ability. I told them that I would never look at their phones unless I had reason to believe that they were in real danger, and the two examples that I gave of that were if I suspected any hard drug usage or suicidal thoughts. I just couldn’t justify not trying to save them if I suspected this was happening, and I thought that looking at their phones if this was happening might provide information that I could use to help save them. My kids never had issues with drugs or suicidal thoughts in high school, so I never had any desire to look at their phones/social media. I’m sure that they had conversations with their friends on social media that if I knew about them, I probably would have been concerned, but I agree that teens need to have space to have such conversations. I know I certainly had these types of conversations with my friends when I was in high school. We continued to have our own conversations at home with our kids about issues that teens encounter, so hopefully those helped our teens navigate some of these issues. It’s hard to say, though–it honestly seems like they mostly just figured things out on their own.
Chadwick: my Utah 7th graders have had to take a “digital literacy” course that covers digital wellness, cyberbullying, online etiquette, and internet privacy/security (as well as some basic computer skills, typing, spreadsheets, file management, etc.) So the idea is there; I’m unsure on how effectively it is implemented. My recollection is that my kids found the class pretty boring. Hopefully we’ve covered many of those things as parents, too.
I think Gov. Cox’s “Come at me, bro” is kind of a political chest-thumping at Big Tech to show that he’s a tough guy, not afraid to take on their power, and honestly, Big Tech does have a lot of power. This specific legislation does suffer from some of the practical problems that Utah’s abortion ban exceptions also suffer from. In Utah’s abortion ban, unlike many red states, there are exceptions for rape or incest, but they require a police department sign off which is incredibly problematic given the history (and present) of police departments turning a blind eye to sexual assault and domestic violence, and the stats that show that 40% of officers have been accused of domestic violence. It’s like hiring Jeffrey Dahmer as the chef in your fancy restaurant or only hiring babysitters from the sex offender registry. But I digress.
Ultimately, the politicians will get to claim they did what nobody else could do to “stick it to Big Tech” and make them comply, and Big Tech will do what it always does and find a way to comply that doesn’t really hurt it at all, that puts the onus on users, or in fact gathers even more of our data that it can use.
Charles: I doubt blogs are on the radar here. And even if people have to use ID to get into an online space, that doesn’t make that information publicly available. Whatever the hoops, people will work out how to do it and then forget about it. Everything becomes the new normal.
As to those who are thinking “Well, this only applies to Utah,” the articles I read (and one podcast) indicate that other red states are poised to follow suit, and that the Big Tech firms will just basically have to design as if this applies everywhere to make it work. Dodging with VPN or out of state ID will probably not work. It will be like two-step verification or something, but with ID. They’ll just make everyone go through a one-time verification process that becomes the new norm, and it’s now another thing we do that’s inconvenient for thirty seconds, and then we forget that it was stupid.
@Angela: I think you’ve really highlighted the danger here. Big tech companies have been salivating over getting everyone’s ID for a long time, because they can use it to further correlate who’s doing what and who knows who, and use it to sell more ads. This gives them an excuse to do that. While it may only be a minor inconvenience as we’re signing up, it can be used against us over time in insidious ways. They can also use this to squash competition (including blogs) that are too small to effectively implement ID checks.
Also, consider that Instagram or Snapchat would now be required to get ID from folks who use those platforms for their Drag persona. States that have outlawed, or will outlaw, drag performances, could then subpoena information from those platforms to identify drag performers and prosecute them, even if they are online-only performers. A few years ago I would have thought that to be unthinkable and dystopian, but I could never have imagine Roe v Wade would actually be repealed, drag would be outlawed, and books would be pulled from school shelves, so I’m more cautious now.
I don’t have much to add here, except that you can’t legislate good parenting, which in my view is more about open communication, than a set of rules. I am more concerned about tech companies’ ability to collect data on our kids and market products to them, which I don’t think this bill addresses. As the OP and others have pointed out, I think it has the potential to do some serious harm. For example, what if a kid is living an abusive home and social media is his or her only source of escape or hope? – or, maybe to they have a parent working or deployed overseas and 3 am local is the only time that parent is available, and they use a social media platform to talk. Finally, I wonder which Mormon-owned Silicone Slopes startup is set to profit from this legislation. It wouldn’t surprise me to learn that the ID tech industry helped draft the bill.
Charles: Oof and yikes about the drag point dangers, and not just drag but also the fact that non-binary ID is fraught already. Many state documents require M/F designation, and also, the hoops you have to go through for a name change that is not marital are just staggering in most states. Every ID my adult NB child has is under a deadname, and our state requires a judge’s approval to change it.
And who gets all that personal data for verification? The company? The government? A subcontracted third-party company whose CEO happens to be a friend of a legislator?
Sorry, I missed Charles’ response. Agree.
As a conservative, conservative member of the church, and a Utahn, I’m not a fan of the legislation. As others have mentioned, it’s a nanny-state intrusion that really is at odds with what many conservatives stand for. “Big Government Conservatism” is something Utah has been guilty of more than once, but with Cox lacking in many conservative areas, it doesn’t entirely surprise me.
Parenting is something even far too many members of the Church have outsourced. Good parenting is the only real answer to the social media problem. I realize the question of effective parenting yields a ton a misguided and well intentioned answers, but there are a lot of good ones as well. (I’ve been amazed at what reading to my kids regularly has done for them—even the teenaged ones—along with the discussion that follows. So many positive and diverse outcomes from such a simple act.)
Part of me would indeed like to find a way to stick it to big tech, but this isn’t it.
As far as having well-adjusted kids, that’s also an interesting question. We have more parental time and less social media time with our kids than many of their friends do with theirs. Most of their friends are good people, but seem far less mature than my own kids. I have a feeling my kids may end up going to college not fully adjusted to interacting with their peers, but able to interact with and work alongside everyone else in life in all the ways that count. Hopefully their peers won’t be too far behind.
mat: excellent points all around. My only caveat is that the time of day limit is one that could be gotten around with a simple VPN. I mean, kids in general could do that, but they would probably only go to the trouble for something really important like contact with an overseas parent. It’s (I suspect) much more common for people living abroad to use VPN to get into US content rather than the other way around.
Where have you gone JCS?
mat – the law does forbid social media sites from collecting data on kids and serving up targeted ads. But I found an article that said that isn’t that big of a deal because ads targeted to 13-17 year-olds is already limited.
This is a quote from an article: “the new bills, signed into law by Gov. Spencer J. Cox last week, could have a limited impact on marketers since ad targeting of children between 13 to 17 years is already limited. Utah H.B. 311 and S.B. 152 are set to go into effect March 1, 2024. The first requires social media platforms to verify a user’s age. Those under 18 will have curfews imposed and need parental or guardian consent to access their accounts between 10:30 p.m. and 6:30 a.m. Meanwhile, social media platforms cannot collect children’s data or display targeted ads to them.”
Another odd thing in the law is that it gives minors the right to sue social media if it causes them to become addicted. I’m not sure how that will work out in reality, but I honestly love the idea. Social media WANTS compulsive use of its platforms. I’d be delighted if social media had to turn off endless scrolling. Or made its algorithm an opt-in feature, so it’s not suggesting content. Instead, you just see the people you follow. That would make social media more about keeping up with your friends rather than keeping you outraged and engaged to see more ads. I fondly believe that 70% of the damage done by social media would go away if you could turn off the algorithm that recommends content designed to keep you on the site.
I live in Utah. I have mixed feelings about this. I like the curfew, but that’s about all. The loss of anonymity could really cause major problems, for the reasons described above. Kids in unsafe situations are going to be so incredibly isolated. Maybe some teens will hang out in person again.
Jack Hughes is right on that this sort of law is a nanny-state thing, which is only okay if it furthers the conservative agenda. Utah has a Republican super-majority, so the Republicans can do basically anything they want.
Personally, it doesn’t affect my family. I have three teens, and none of them have any interest in social media; I’ve asked. One son has a facebook account so he can use the VR headset they saved up and bought. He never checks the account.
“Utah just passed new legislation that will be the most restrictive in the country toward teens’ access to social media platforms, many of which have been shown to correlate with negative mental health outcomes for developing brains.”
Does social media result in more or fewer negative mental health outcomes than say… growing up in a high demand religion that is absolutely obsessed with worthiness?
Maybe Utah should pass a law limiting how much exposure kids can have with religions.
I’ve been lurking on W&T for a while, now, and I agree with most of the comments and concerns about this legislation. I would just like to point out a couple of ideas that haven’t come up, yet.
This legislation, on its surface, resembles prohibition to a degree, and the result from that should serve as a model and cautionary tale for what will happen. Instead of stamping out the behavior, it drove it underground. Yes, the mainstream social media companies will comply and enact measures as the law requires. However, it’s unclear how this law can enforce itself on social media companies outside of the United States.
Beyond that, there’s nothing is to stop new and different types of social media that doesn’t fit the law’s definition from arising. These would be new digital speakeasies, and since they’re already outside the law, there’s no limit to what will be in these places. I’m not even talking about the dark web, just places that spring up that are not widely publicized.
As a more modern example, I used to assign my composition students an article about a sexting ring at a Colorado high school. The kids used specialized vault apps to hide galleries of pictures behind a calculator (or other) shell. Enter the right numbers and the vault opens up. The kids turned it into a game, almost like Pokemon, to collect and trade nude photographs of other students. Several of my students were horrified, while many others confirmed such behavior went on at their schools with school administration and parents completely unknowing.
This social media law, much like Prohibition, will only drive the behaviors underground. Everything that might be good about this law is something that parents can teach and enforce for their own children. I saw mention of digital literacy courses for students, but many parents (not to mention politicians) need these courses, too, and on a recurring basis because the digital landscape changes so frequently.
Angela C: I suspect that using a VPN will be one of the many work-arounds kids will use, which to me just adds to the futility of this bill.
Janey: I wasn’t aware of the current regulations limiting adds targeted directly at children. That’s good to know. Like you, I would like to see more regulations thrown at the insidious algorithm. I find the lawsuit clause in the bill to be quite bizarre, though. I’m no lawyer, but can’t anyone sue any one for anything if they find a lawyer willing to take the case? Whether the lawsuit would see the light of day is another matter. A lot of things can lead to addiction. That doesn’t mean one would have a chance in hell, if a judge would agree to hear the case at all. The snack food industry, for example, is doing just fine.
Overall, I’m leary of any legislation that appears pointless and politically motivated – especially in red states. More than likely, outside special interest groups are behind it. If the state of Utah is so concerned about the mental health of kids, they would do more good if they invested money in music/arts, sports, after-school, mentoring programs ECT. But I don’t live in Utah (thankfully).
Re: “It probably will just create a sub-group of weird kids whose parents don’t let them on social media”
This may slightly increase the number of these weird kids, but I imagine most of parents who won’t let their kids have social media after this law wouldn’t have let their kids have social media anyway regardless of this law. It just may be more difficult for the kids to sneak around and get finstas. But teens are pretty savvy about evading parental controls.
One of my son’s priest quorum friends was forbidden from eating meat. His dad was convinced that eating any beef would cause mad cow disease once consumed. At the ward spaghetti dinner this young man hid under our table with a plate of pasta and meat sauce so his father wouldn’t freak out. I have zero regrets about helping that kid escape his father’s weird
What will be the unintended consequences of this legislation?
A lot of adults will balk at the idea of sharing even more personal information with social media companies and will leave. When adolescents no longer see their youth leader, aunts, or school teachers online, the atmosphere on social media platforms will become more toxic.