(SALT LAKE CITY, Utah) — Utah Gov. Spencer Cox signed two bills into law on on Friday that seek to limit the harm caused by social media to children and teens by requiring parents and guardians to consent to their children having accounts and by prohibiting social media companies from designing addictive features.
“Our administration is very concerned about how social media is affecting our children. Youth rates of depression and other mental health issues are on the rise, and social media companies know their products are toxic,” Cox said in a recording posted online. “As leaders and as parents we have a responsibility to protect our young people.”
As of March 1, 2024, social media companies will be required to verify the adult age of Utah residents seeking to open or maintain social media accounts. Those under the age of 18 will need the consent of a parent or guardian.
Social media companies will also be required to allow parents full access to their child’s account, create curfew settings that blocks access overnight, prohibit direct messages from anyone the child hasn’t followed or friended and block underage accounts from search results.
Social media companies will also be prohibited from collecting a child’s data or target their accounts for advertising, according to the law.
Violations may be reported to the Consumer Protection Division, which can fine social media companies up to $2,500 per violation and can seek additional remedies through courts.
A second law, which will go into effect on Dec. 31, will implement penalties on social media companies that target users under the age of 18 with addictive algorithms. Social media companies will be prohibited from “using a design or feature that causes a minor to have an addiction to the company’s social media platform,” according to the law.
Violators could face a fine of $250,000 and a penalty of up to $2,500 per child who is exposed to an addictive feature. Companies that perform quarterly audits and address addictive feature violations within 30 days could avoid the fine, according to the law.
Parents will also be able to sue social media companies directly for the financial, physical or emotional harm to their children. For those under the age of 16, harm would be presumed under the law and social media companies would have to prove otherwise.
“Utah’s leading the way in holding social media companies accountable – and we’re not slowing down anytime soon,” Cox said in a tweet.
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