POLITICS + GOVERNMENT

Bill would require parental permission for Utah teens to use social media

Jan 31, 2023, 4:51 PM | Updated: 4:52 pm

A pair of bills in the Utah Legislature address if and how Utah teens could use social media. One w...

The rotunda at the Capitol in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2023. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

(Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — A pair of bills in the Utah Legislature address if and how Utah teens could use social media. One was heard by a committee on Tuesday. 

According to Utah’s Senate leaders, it’s time for the state to put up guardrails on teen social media use.

But a group of tech CEOs sent a letter to lawmakers saying one of those bills “steps in between” parents and their kids. They also said that certain elements of what’s being proposed could force them to “re-engineer an entire platform.”

Social media bills

SB 152, introduced by Sen. Mike McKell, R-Spanish Fork, would require that social media companies verify age, and require parental consent before for kids under age 18 could use a social media account.

Finally, if parents sign off, the bill states that social media companies could not show ads to teens or include the teen’s account in search results.

SB 152 would also require that parents have access to their minor’s account.

“We want parents involved in the process but we wanna have tools that are available for those parents,” McKell told KSL NewsRadio the same day his bill was set to be heard by the Senate Business and Labor Committee. 

McKell said another bill that would ban social media for teens under 16 is set to be run by Rep. Jordan Tuscher, R-South Jordan. 

McKell’s bill empowers Utah’s Department of Consumer Protections to “impose administrative fines for violations, and authorizes the division to seek enforcement through an injunction, civil penalties, and other relief through the judicial process.”

Objections to the bill 

KSL NewsRadio obtained the letter (provided below) from TechNet, a  group of tech CEOs in opposition to McKell’s bill. 

TechNet UT SB 152 (McKell) Social Media Amendments OPPOSE

Those included in TechNet describe themselves  as “the national, bipartisan network of technology CEOs and senior executives.”

Their objections included creating an age verification system, which they said is “a complex challenge” for the industry.

“With this bill’s requirements, every Utah resident must submit more personal information to social media platforms before they can create a new account or use their existing account,” the letter reads.

And that, they argue, is an online safety concern for teens and parents.

They also say that social media companies have already provided safety tools designed to protect kids.

There are many commercial, as well as free, content filtering and blocking solutions available that enable consumers to protect their families and themselves from illegal or inappropriate content as well as set time limits.”

The group argues that SB152 takes those protections too far. 

“This bill steps in-between parents and their children,” the letter reads. 

The TechNet CEOs are also concerned about the portion of McKell’s bill that requires parents to have access to teens’ accounts. 

“Allowing parents to access direct messages shared between users, even for minors, is a violation of their privacy,” the group argues.

Finally, the letter warns that barring teens from social media could be unconstitutional.

“It is in many ways similar to regulations state and local governments have attempted to enact to protect minors from (the) effects of playing violent video games. Such laws have repeatedly been found unconstitutional.”

 

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Bill would require parental permission for Utah teens to use social media