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In Florida, a new bill has been signed that will restrict social media usage for children
Defense Visual Information Distribution Service
Ron DeSantis giving a speech

On March 25th, Governor Ron DeSantis signed a bill into law that will restrict social media access for adolescents in Florida. All children under the age of 14, a group of around 3 million people, are set to have their social media accounts removed, and will also be prohibited from setting up new accounts. Among the platforms that will be affected, there are many popular ones such as TikTok, Instagram, Snapchat, and Facebook. The ban will start on January 1st, 2025.

The ban is a response to a problem that has increased over the past two decades: social media addiction. What started out as something seemingly harmless has turned into a worldwide dependency. People have become slaves to their phones, some without even realizing it.

Addiction, Greed, and Brain Rot

Some of the most addictive apps are ones with infinite scrolling features for short-form video content. It’s largely because of these that “the average teen spends 7 hours and 22 minutes looking at screens each day”, Exploding Topics reports.

The average teen spends 7 hours and 22 minutes looking at screens each day.

— Exploding Topics

TikTok was one of the first platforms to popularize short-form content, and because of its great success, others like YouTube and Snapchat decided to implement their own version. In other words, short-form content is a popular formatting choice because it is excellent at getting users to maintain their attention and spend more time on an app.

This business model, although effective, does not greatly take into consideration its users’ mental health. Spending multiple hours scrolling through videos may be good for the company, but is overtly harmful to how people live their lives, as the model discourages real life, human-to-human interactions.

Although it is evident that there is some regard made by the companies to the effects of social media – for example, TikTok limits usage in China – they don’t make as much of an effort as they should be doing. The companies implement these strategies sometimes without much thought as to what damage they might be causing their users in their overall wellbeing.

Yale Medicine says that teens who use social media for more than three hours a day are two times more likely to suffer from mental illnesses like depression and severe anxiety. Constant stimulation of social media also leaves addicted teens feeling jaded, both from real life and even from social media at times. Real-life pleasurable experiences, such as hanging out with friends, going swimming, and school quickly lose their shine when competing with a steady stream of enjoyment. Often, teens will take their phones with them wherever they go and be on it whenever they get the slightest chance.

The content of the videos themselves is also a massive issue. Most people are well acquainted with how much of a cesspool social media apps can be. It wasn’t too long ago that videos of fatal car crashes were circulating on Instagram. Possibly even more disgusting than the videos themselves were all the likes and comments they would rack up. The ‘positive’ interactions that users would have with the videos only encouraged Instagram’s algorithm to recommend similar ones. 

Other than containing blatant violence, social media videos often only exist for entertainment purposes. A less kind way to say it is that these videos are ‘brain rot’. A popular video series that goes by the name of ‘Skibidi Toilet’ is responsible for some of the most recent brain rot among younger children, and yes, it’s as stupid as it sounds. These videos about toilets with heads sticking out of them have accrued hundreds of millions of views on YouTube in the past year. 

Sometimes, even ‘educational’ videos can be completely non beneficial for viewers. Yes, the videos may contain a fragment of useful information, but this is lost when viewers scroll to the next video and forget most of what they learned. There is essentially no benefit to obsessively watching short-form videos, whether for entertainment or education purposes. 

Algorithms are used by almost every social media site and they are what keep people hooked on scrolling. Attorney General Ashley Moody stated in a press conference, “These are algorithms specifically designed to addict people.” Moody is one of the people who helped support Ron DeSantis’ social media bill. The algorithms adapt to a user’s preference in videos and recommend similar ones in attempts to lengthen usage time.

It’s About Darn Time

With the evidence provided, a social media ban like the one signed into law by DeSantis seems appropriate. Given the prevalent, unrestricted usage of social media that has been going on unchecked for years on a national scale, as well as its horrible side effects, it’s about time for some regulations.

There have been past attempts to try and ban social media, like Montana and Arkansas’ proposed social media restrictions, but these only ever stayed as propositions, never being signed into law. Montana’s ban was struck down by federal judges after they claimed that it might violate the 1st amendment. Since this kind of legislation is generally new, what’s okay to restrict hasn’t been clearly defined yet. DeSantis’ bill takes a large step forward in defining those boundaries.

Supporting a social media ban is not a ‘Republican’ or ‘Democrat’ thing to do, in fact, DeSantis’ bill received bipartisan support in Florida. Health News Florida reports, “The measure (HB3) cleared the Legislature with overwhelming bipartisan, but not unanimous support.” Both parties are able to agree on the fact that spending too much time on social media isn’t a good thing.

Once the Florida ban takes place, companies who do not comply with removing 13-year-old and younger children from their platforms may be fined. The Department of Legal Affairs has the ability to fine companies up to $50,000 (site), and the families of the children are able to file lawsuits and be awarded up to $10,000.

Paul Renner, the Speaker of the House for Florida, states that he fully expects companies in the social media business to start suing Florida as soon as possible. One of the groups expected to sue is Netchoice, a coalition of groups dedicated to protecting eCommerce. Netchoice has sued Florida in the past over anti-bias laws, and have also sued Texas over similar topics. Governor DeSantis’ goal is to beat Netchoice in court and cement the bill.

It is rather disappointing that there have to be laws at all regarding social media use, as the responsibility of controlling it should be up to parents in a perfect world. Sadly, parents aren’t fully aware of how much time kids are spending on their phones. Some of those who do know choose not to do anything about it.

The battle for teens’ and pre-teens’ mental health will end up being fought hours at a time in the court system, with back and forth arguments from politicians and company lawyers. If DeSantis is successful, a new precedent will be set for those seeking to enact similar laws, all with the goal of protecting children from online dangers.

About the Contributor
Asher Maney
Asher Maney, Reporter
Specializes in politics, gardening, and Grandpa Asher