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Florida Proposes Legislation Prohibiting Social Media Usage for Children Under 16

Florida lawmakers have moved forward with a bill aimed at preventing social media platforms from allowing individuals under the age of 16 to have accounts, while imposing age verification for other users. The proposed legislation not only bars those under 16 from creating new social media accounts but also mandates the deletion of existing accounts held by minors below this age threshold. Additionally, social media companies would be required to remove personal information from these accounts and utilize an independent third party, unaffiliated with the platform, to verify users' ages.

The bipartisan bill garnered a 106-13 vote in favor in the Florida House and is now on its way to the Republican-controlled Senate. Fiona McFarland, a Republican state lawmaker and co-sponsor of the legislation, expressed concerns about the addictive nature of social media on the House floor, likening it to a "digital fentanyl." She emphasized the challenges even well-informed parents and teens face in resisting the allure of these addictive features.

Last year, US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy issued a warning about the potential risks of social media for children, acknowledging the need for further research. The bill does not specifically identify which platforms it would affect but broadly applies to those utilizing "addictive, harmful, or deceptive design features" or any other elements leading to excessive or compulsive use.

Florida joins other states, such as Utah, which banned individuals under 18 from using social media without parental consent and imposed restrictions on usage hours. Some states have also mandated safety assessments for platforms serving minors and changes to algorithms. Meanwhile, New York City has declared social media a "public health hazard." The ongoing debate over the impact of social media on the well-being of children continues to shape legislative actions across the United States.

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