". . . and having done all . . . stand firm." Eph. 6:13


DeSantis Signs Bill Targeting Addictive Social Media and ‘Digital Trafficking’

March 27, 2024

The Sunshine State is moving to protect children from “addictive” social media and the “danger” of online predators. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (R) signed a bill into law on Monday prohibiting minors under the age of 14 from opening or operating social media accounts on platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and others.

H.B. 3 bars children under 14 “from creating new accounts” and requires “social media platforms to terminate certain accounts and provide additional options for termination of such accounts.” The legislation also requires minors aged 14 and 15 to obtain parental consent before creating social media accounts and mandates “age verification measures for internet sites that contains [sic] obscene or ‘harmful’ content, unsuitable for minors,” such as pornographic websites.

“Documentation of the deleterious effects of social media on children abounds, and yet we still seem hesitant to place governmental authority over this powerful force. I am glad to see efforts like the one in Florida,” Family Research Council Senior Fellow Meg Kilgannon said in comments to The Washington Stand. “The need to protect children from online predators specifically is very real, but the general effort to rein in social media in favor of authentic relationships and in-person engagement is more important than ever.”

In a brief speech before signing the legislation, DeSantis said, “One of the things that I know a lot of parents have had concerns about is the role that the internet and social media play in the upbringing of young kids.” He continued, “Now, with things like social media and all this, you can have a kid in the house — safe, seemingly — and then you have predators that get right in there, into your own home. You could be doing everything right, but they know how to get and manipulate these different platforms.” Referring to his own family and his role as governor, DeSantis noted, “One of the things that informs me on issues relating to children is just being a dad of young children.”

Following DeSantis, Florida House Speaker Paul Renner (R) said, “Knowing what I know now, none of us can afford to be on the sidelines when it comes to social media, when it comes to hardcore pornography that our kids are being exposed to.” He explained, “We know from law enforcement, we know from our prosecutors, that social media is the primary platform in which children are trafficked, in which pedophiles … pretending to be children, come after our children, and that more crimes against children happen on these platforms than any other venue.”

“Our bill is focused on addiction, and when you think about it, children are not set up to handle the addiction that some of us as adults have had to face and step away from,” Renner continued. “A child in their brain development doesn’t have the ability to know that they’re being sucked in to these addictive technologies and to see the harm and step away from it.” Referring to social media as “digital trafficking,” the speaker asked, “If I said to you that a company was going to take children, use addiction that causes them harm for profit, what does that sound like? Sounds like trafficking to me.”

Florida Senator Erin Grall (R), who sponsored the Senate version of the bill, stated that social media companies “have made our parenting difficult by addicting our children.” She said that although she expects the law to be upheld if challenged in courts, “it always comes back to the parents,” who she said have “abdicated our responsibility” and allowed addictive social media platforms to serve as “babysitters.”

Grall’s original bill was vetoed earlier this month by DeSantis, who wanted stronger language protecting parental rights and addressing internet anonymity. The new law will take effect on January 1, 2025.

S.A. McCarthy serves as a news writer at The Washington Stand.