New Law Restricts Social Media Access for Utah Youth

Autumn Lloyd, Editor

Utah delivered a major blow in the growing battle against social media in recent weeks. Governor Spencer Cox signed the Utah Social Media Regulation Act into law, which will require social media companies to “conduct age verification for all Utah residents, ban all ads for minors and impose a curfew, making their sites off limits between the hours of 10:30 p.m. – 6:30 a.m. for anyone under the age of 18, [as well as] require social platforms to give parents access to their teens’ accounts,” according to CNN’s Samantha Murphy Kelly. The law was sponsored by Republican Senator Michael McKell and will go into effect on March 1st, 2024.
Supporters of the law say it represents an important step forward in protecting the mental health of teens, which has been rapidly worsening in recent years. McKell told CNN that “As a lawmaker and parent, I believe this bill is the best path forward to prevent our children from succumbing to the negative and sometimes life-threatening effects of social media,” and Kelly reports that “The legislation comes… amid concerns about social platforms leading younger users down harmful rabbit holes, enabling new forms of bullying and harassment and adding to what’s been described as a teen mental health crisis in the country.”
Others are concerned about the potential consequences of the legislation on privacy, however. The Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital rights group, has expressed concerns that the law weakens data security for youth on platforms and may deter young people from expressing themselves freely online, for example. Young Utah influencers have also spoken out against the Utah Social Media Regulation Act, saying that it could be dangerous for LBGTQ youth and discourage activist speech online, according to Kelly.
Similar bills are being considered in Texas, Connecticut and other states. Utah’s new bill could represent the beginning of a wave of restrictions on social media use in the United States.