The Law and Business of Social Media
May 20, 2024 - Advertising, Data Security, Privacy, Social Media Policy

State Lawmakers Introduce Laws Governing Teen Use of Social Media

In case you haven’t noticed, state legislatures have been hard at work drafting, passing, and trying to pass laws that govern minors’ use of social media. Several states have passed laws requiring social media companies to implement certain policies, including age verification and parental consent for use of their platforms. Lawmakers in other states have introduced similar laws that are currently working their way through the legislative process and may be enacted soon. Below is a roundup of pending or enacted laws introduced in recent months.

These enacted laws and in-process bills show a broad state-level trend towards efforts to hold social media companies responsible for minors on their platforms. Common themes include age verification and parental consent, but these are certainly not universal, and there are a variety of other requirements, making compliance an interesting question. As noted below, several of these laws have already been challenged in court. As the laws begin to take effect, companies will need to implement new policies and procedures to ensure platforms are compliant despite an ever-changing legislative and judicial backdrop.

Alaska House Bill 254, which was passed in the House on April 26, 2024 and now advances to the Senate, would prohibit children under age 14 from using social media, require parents to sign off on children aged 14 and 15 using social media, and require providers of internet pornography to verify that viewers are at least 18 years old.

Arkansas’ Social Media Safety Act, first introduced in March 2023, would require age verification of users by social media companies and parental consent for minors using such platforms. However, in September 2023, a federal judge blocked the law from going into effect while a lawsuit brought by NetChoice is resolved.

California is seeing movement on several social media laws. First, the state adopted the Age-Appropriate Design Code Act in September 2022, requiring platform providers to make default privacy settings provide a “high level” of privacy, assess whether their platforms could harm children, and use age-appropriate language on their platforms. The law was subsequently #blocked by a federal judge in September 2023 in a lawsuit brought by NetChoice. Second, the Protecting Our Kids from Social Media Addiction bill, introduced on January 29, 2024, would prohibit platforms from providing an “addictive social media feed” or pushing notifications during school and overnight hours to minors without parental consent. Third, the pending Let Parents Choose Protection Act, introduced on February 16, 2024, would require providers of “large social media platforms” to make available to certain safety software providers a set of application programming interfaces (APIs) that allow them to monitor children’s activities.

Colorado has two new social media laws. Introduced in January 2024, HB 24-1136 would require social media companies to push notifications to minors who have spent a certain amount of time on social media platforms at certain hours to help them understand the effects of using social media. Introduced in February 2024, Senate Bill 24-158 would require social media companies to verify the age of users, provide certain tools to parents and minors, and notify minors about harms of social media use.

Connecticut updated its Data Privacy Act to require social media platforms to remove minors’ accounts when requested and prohibit such platforms from processing minors’ personal data. The changes will come into effect on July 1, 2024.

As we previously discussed, Florida enacted HB 3 on March 25, 2024, requiring social media companies to prohibit minors under age 14 from holding accounts, allowing parents to decide if 14- and 15-year-olds can have accounts, and requiring “inappropriate” websites to verify the age of minor users.

Georgia enacted SB 351 on April 23, 2024, which requires children under 16 to get parental consent to create social media accounts, prohibits social media use on school devices, requires pornography sites to verify users are at least 18 years old, and requires education on social media use.

The Iowa House approved pending House File 2523 on March 6, 2024. The bill would prohibit minors under age 18 from creating accounts on social media platforms without permission from a parent or guardian who can also monitor their activity.

House Bill 450 was introduced in the Kentucky House on February 1, 2024. It would require social media companies to verify that users are at least 18 years old and require parental consent for users under age 18. It would also allow parents to view their children’s online activity.

Louisiana enacted the Secure Online Interaction and Age Limitation Act on June 28, 2023, which requires social media platforms to verify user age, get parental consent for minors to open accounts, allow parents to supervise minors’ accounts, and prevent unwanted messages from adults to minors. It would also prohibit use of minors’ personal information to display advertisements and unnecessary collection of data from minors.

On May 9, 2024, Maryland enacted the Maryland Kids Code, which requires age-appropriate design of online products and prevents companies from using minors’ data for targeted advertising or providing addictive content.

The pending Minnesota Age-Appropriate Design Code Act, introduced in February 2023, would require online services likely to be accessed by children to implement certain design features and settings that prioritize privacy and data protection for minors.

As we’ve noted before, New York’s Stop Addictive Feeds Exploitation (SAFE) for Kids Act, introduced on October 13, 2023 and currently pending in the Senate, would prohibit social media companies from using certain addictive feed algorithms for minors without parental consent and prohibit platforms from sending nighttime notifications to minors. The state’s related Child Data Protection Act, introduced on October 13, 2023, would prevent websites from collecting personal data from minors for advertising.

North Carolina lawmakers introduced House Bill 644 in April 2023. If passed, the bill would require social media companies to verify age to provide age-appropriate content for minors and prohibit such companies from using a minors’ data for advertising and recommendations.

The currently pending Let Parents Choose Protection Act in North Carolina, introduced in April 2023, would require providers of large social media platforms to work with providers of safety software to allow them to monitor minors’ accounts.

Ohio’s Social Media Parental Notification Act, enacted in July 2023, would require social media platforms to get parental consent for users under age 16. It was blocked by a federal judge in February 2024 in a case brought by NetChoice (see our prior article on this case).

Oklahoma House Bill 3914, which passed in the House on March 14, 2024 and is now in the Senate, would require social media companies to verify users are over age 18 and require parental consent for users who are 16 to 18 years old.

The pending Pennsylvania House Bill 2017, passed by the House on May 8, 2024, would require social media companies to verify users’ ages and obtain consent from a parent or guardian for minor users. If enacted, it would also allow parents to view the privacy settings of minors’ accounts.

South Carolina’s Social Media Regulation Act, passed by the House in February 2024 and currently in the Senate, would prohibit social media companies from allowing minors to have accounts without parental consent, require such companies to prevent adults from messaging minors’ accounts, develop policies to filter certain content from minors’ accounts, and prohibit advertising based on minors’ personal data.

Tennessee enacted the Protecting Children from Social Media Act on May 2, 2024. The law requires social media sites to verify the age of potential users and obtain parental consent for minor users. Such sites must also provide tools for parents to supervise minors’ accounts.

Texas enacted the Securing Children Online through Parental Empowerment Act (“SCOPE Act”) on June 13, 2023. This law requires certain “digital service providers” to verify the ages of users and limits such providers from collecting personal information from minors. Providers must also develop strategies to prevent minors’ exposure to harmful materials.

As we previously reported, Utah repealed and replaced its Social Media Regulation Act, which was previously challenged by NetChoice, on March 7, 2024. The law requires social media companies to determine whether users are minors, but no longer requires parental consent. It also requires default privacy settings for minors’ accounts, limits data collection from minors, prohibits certain addictive functions, and allows parents to monitor children’s activity.

Vermont’s Kids Code, passed in the Senate in March 2024 and currently in the House, would require covered companies to implement default privacy settings and provide certain protections to minors.

West Virginia’s Child Social Media Protection bill, introduced in January 2024 and currently pending, would prohibit minors from holding social media accounts without parental consent and require social media companies to verify the ages of account holders.