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Florida’s Kid Social Media Ban: Can Government Substitute For Sensible Parents?

Updated: Feb 26

Florida’s Republican-led Legislature passed a sweeping bill Thursday in Tallahassee that would ban all kids under 16 from using social media — even with a parent’s permission —

and would require everyone else in the Sunshine State to prove they are adults to continue using their online accounts, reported floridapolitics.com.

 

Many conservatives rejoiced at the news that the legislature was taking steps to protect kids from online predators.  “We know that there are pedophiles and sexual predators on these platforms and children can be groomed in less than 45 minutes,” said conservative All Star Florida state Senator Erin Grall, a Treasure Coast Republican, who championed the measure in the Senate. “The sale of human beings is happening with our most vulnerable children in these platforms.”

 

According to floridapolitics.com, under the bill — and an amendment by Grall that passed late Wednesday — adults in Florida would be required to submit proof-of-age documents or evidence to third-party, U.S.-based companies to prove to social media companies they are old enough to use their accounts on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, X, Snapchat, Reddit and others.

 

The bill would require that these companies immediately delete copies of any age-verification information at the end of the process and assure the anonymity of anyone who submitted it. It did not specify what documents or evidence would be acceptable to prove age, but legislative researchers said options include government-issued records such as drivers’ licenses, credit or banking records or even biometric tools that use facial recognition to estimate a person’s age.


The bill identifies social media services as having “addictive features,” which Grall compared to drug addiction. The bill wouldn’t apply to email providers, streaming services, photo-editing applications, news sites or other popular digital services.

 

“This has been equated to digital fentanyl,” Grall said. “This is a different version of drug use than most of us have ever seen, but it is just as bad and it affects their brain development and it affects their ability to participate in society.”

 

It would go into effect July 1.


Critics – mostly, but not universally Democrats – said the bill as passed interferes with the First Amendment rights of social media users. They note a similar law in Arkansas was blocked after a judge ruled that it placed too high a burden on adults and children attempting to access protected content.


We find the “too high a burden” claim to be somewhat disingenuous – try going to any site selling Second Amendment-protected merchandise, such as guns and ammo, without clicking a button verifying you are over 18 or 21.


And there are plenty of websites that offer discounts to seniors, former or current military or law enforcement if you submit verification that you meet their criteria, so the burden isn’t apparently that great when weighed against the economic benefit of a good deal on sunglasses.


Other Florida Republican leaders have been critical of the bill on its potential effect on parental rights. Senators Rick Scott (R-FL) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) have both questioned the propriety of the legislation.

 

"I strongly hope parents can have more tools about monitoring and controlling what young children can see on social media, but in the end, it is about empowering parents to make those decisions," Sen. Rubio told The Floridian.

 

Similarly, Sen. Scott said, "You have to get parental consent. All of the social media stuff, we ought to focus on parental consent."

 

State Senator Blaise Ingoglia (R), a former Chairman of the Republican Party of Florida, told The Floridian he had "serious concerns with HB1 from a constitutional perspective, and from a perspective of not being consistent when we say we want to empower parents."


“Empowering parents” to give their children access to “digital fentanyl” doesn’t sound like a great argument in opposition to the bill, but it does prompt us to ask can the nanny state ever substitute for sensible parents?


Probably not, but we applaud Florida state Senator Erin Grall, and the other proponents of Florida HB 1, for bringing the bill forward and illuminating the issue. There must be some way to stop internet content providers who profit from preying on children, and Florida HB 1 is a much-needed start.



  • Social media ban

  • Florida

  • online predators

  • parental rights

  • groomers

  • Sen. Erin Grall

  • proof of age

  • age verification

  • digital fentanyl

  • brain development

  • first amendment

  • free speech

  • Sen. Marco Rubio

  • Sen. Rick Scott

  • HB 1

  • State Senator Blaise Ingoglia

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