Keeping kids safe on social media, and ensuring that their online habits aren’t detrimental to their mental health and well-being, are at the top of most parents’ minds.
Following a recent advisory from Surgeon General Dr. Vivek H. Murthy, which drew a direct link between kids’ and teens’ near constant social media use and rising depression levels, states across the country are taking action.
Recently, lawmakers from Louisiana passed a bill that would require parental consent for any child under the age of 18 to create a social media profile. Governor John Bel Edwards has final say on the bill, and if he approves it, it will go into effect in Louisiana in August 2024.
What would the law look like?
Under the new bill, HB61, which has unanimously made its way to the desk of Governor Edwards, “interactive computer services” (i.e., social media platforms), would require parental sign-off before anyone under the age of 18 created an account. The bill would also give parents full reign over their children’s accounts, including implementing restrictions or limiting access to these apps.
Jessica Engle, CIPP/US, CIPM, a partner at Kean Willis, a Louisiana law firm, that specializes in intellectual property and data security, broke down this bill in its entirety. She explained that there are nearly two dozen exceptions to online platforms that wouldn’t require additional parental consent, some of which include:
Streaming services that only provide media to end users
Academic, scholarly, or genealogical research
Online shopping where interaction is limited to uploading items for sale or submitting product reviews
Interactive gaming where communication is for the purpose of gaming, educational entertainment, or associated entertainment
It will ultimately be up to the individual platform on how they want to enforce these requirements to receive parental consent. This might look like an email verification link sent to parents’ email addresses, or an electronic form that requires a signature, among other options.
Mixed views on the bill
Louisiana isn’t the first state to propose such a bill. Both Utah and Arkansas have enacted similar bills related to minors’ social media use, while a number of other states have started talks on implementing related legislation.
However, the public reaction has been mixed. While some are in favor of these efforts, as the concerns over kids’ and teens’ social media use have continued to mount, others believe that the law would create more privacy and cybersecurity issues for consumers.