Pro/Con: Social Media Regulation Act


Last month, Utah passed two new bills — together dubbed the Social Media Regulation Act — that limit and restrict the usage of social media for minors. They include sweeping measures like requiring children under 18 years old to receive parental consent to have social media accounts, barring children from accessing their accounts between 10:30 p.m. and 6:30 a.m., and giving parents and guardians total access to their children’s accounts.

The passing of these bills is a positive step that will bring more attention to the significant and detrimental issue of social media addiction, and will hopefully spur further action across the nation.

Once the bills go into effect next year, parents will be provided with a better sense of the damaging environment their children are exposed to on social media. Societal norms cause adolescents to witness unrealistic and detrimental body images on social media and experience an increase in cyberbullying. In 2018, a study conducted by Pew Research Center revealed that 59% of teenagers in the U.S. have experienced some form of cyberbullying.

Having grown up in a different world, parents are unaware of just how significantly their children’s life is affected by screens. Often, the damaging effects of social media aren’t revealed to parents until it appears too late to fix the damage. Utah’s new bills will allow parents to be aware of any harmful content that their kids scroll through on a daily basis, helping to prevent any negative impacts it could have on them.

Another currently harmful aspect of social media that will be addressed by the bills is content and advertisements targeted toward minors. By collecting data off of children in the accounts they use, social media companies have been handed the ability to“psychologically hack” users and provide them with personalized content and advertisements, not to mention manipulation.

According to KPBS, the majority of the largest technology companies receive a significant amount of profit through targeting advertisements to their users. These advertisements popping up on the side of kids’ screens oftentimes display content that is far too sophisticated and inappropriate for their age.

The bill has the ability to curb and resolve this issue. Under one of its measures, social media companies are now prohibited to present advertisements and personalized content to minors using their apps.

Perhaps the biggest concern that these bills try to address is the overwhelming presence of screen addiction among teenagers. Many social media companies’ main goals are geared towards greedily drawing their users into uncontrolled usage in order to line their pockets, which can have significant impacts on minors’ sleeping habits. According to an article by Business Insider, adolescents’ loss of sleep due to social media is around the equivalent of losing one night’s worth of sleep a week. Nightly usage of social media takes away from the time minors need to develop their brains and rest, which can result in harmful effects like depression, anxiety and other mental health issues.

The bill’s prohibition of social media use between 10:30 p.m. to 6:30 a.m. for minors will directly address this issue, allowing for healthier sleeping habits that will positively impact other areas of their lives.

Utah’s passing of the Social Media Regulation Act will ultimately cause the significant and necessary changes to properly address the social media addiction crisis. It prioritizes the well-being of our youth and will hopefully spark similar action in other states.


Recently there has been much debate over increased governmental restrictions on social media, and Utah’s two new social media regulation bills are an extension of that. Signed on March 23, 2023, Utah’s Social Media Regulation Act states that parental consent is required for children under 18 years old to sign up for sites like TikTok or Instagram. It also bars users younger than 18 from accessing accounts between 10:30 p.m. and 6:30 a.m, unless their parents change the settings, and it gives guardians complete access to their children’s social media.

The bills stem from concerns over social media’s impact on minors’ mental health. While these are important concerns, Utah’s legislation is not a positive step — it is generally ineffective and hard to enforce, and it deprives minors of their privacy and rights.

In order to verify kids’ ages and their parental relations, online platforms will collect sensitive information such as government-issued IDs and birth certificates. This would put minors’ information at further risk of breach, vulnerable to hackers or tech employees, and it could even help exploitative advertising. Overall, the bill will make all users less secure since all of them will have to input sensitive information to verify their ages.

Because the law also allows parents to see their children’s social media activity, kids’ privacy from their parents is hugely at jeopardy as well. This could further harm children’s mental health — something the bill intends to improve — if they are denied any right to privacy. Especially in certain circumstances, for example if children are a part of the LGBTQ+ community and their parents are unaccepting, or if they are in an abusive family situation, allowing parents access to the entirety of their children’s accounts, including their private messages and posts, can have detrimental effects.

Beyond an attack on privacy, the bills are an attack on minors’ rights. An entire age demographic being restricted on social media is damaging because it prevents all of the good that can come out of youth having access to social media. Kids use online platforms positively by connecting with their peers and supporting social movements, for example, and should not have these opportunities taken away from them. This regulation of a public speech forum, on which any person should be entitled to free speech, is just a continuation of online censorship that has manifested itself in many ways recently.

Beyond that, not only does the act deprive minors of certain rights, it is just generally ineffective. There is much uncertainty over how the bill will actually be enforced, due to how ambitious its plans are and how vaguely they are defined. Besides, it is highly likely that kids and teens will find ways around the regulations. Currently, 13 years old is the minimum age to have a social media account, yet research conducted by Lero, the Science Foundation Ireland Research Center for Software, confirmed that “children of all ages can completely bypass age verification measure” to sign up for social media apps like TikTok, Snapchat, Discord and others. According to Time Magazine, minors can “use someone else’s ID [or] kids can link their accounts to someone else’s who’s registered as an adult.” Kids are creative, and the options for bypassing the bill’s restrictions seem virtually endless.

The act is set to take effect next year, on March 1, 2024. Currently, other Republican-led states like Arkansas, Ohio, Louisiana and Texas are attempting to pass legislation that would limit children’s social media access. This may be a legislative trend for the foreseeable future — invasive, violating and seemingly ineffective though Utah’s Social Media Regulation Act may be.

Read on Issuu.

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