House Bill 3: Ron DeSantis’ Latest Education Reform
Phone screen displaying social media and entertainment apps. Courtesy of Flickr.

House Bill 3: Ron DeSantis’ Latest Education Reform

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed House Bill 3 on March 25, prohibiting children under 14 from joining social media and requiring a platform to obtain parental consent for 14- and 15-year-olds. The bill does not name any specific social media platforms, but states that its targets are social media sites that promote “infinite scrolling,” display likes, feature auto-play videos and have live-streaming and push notifications. It would exempt websites and apps where the main function is email or texting. 

Supporters of the bill say it is designed to protect children’s mental health. “Social media harms children in a variety of ways,” DeSantis said in an official statement. The new bill “gives parents a greater ability to protect their children.” Critics have said the bill violates the United States Constitution’s First Amendment free speech protections and that parents, not the government, should make decisions about their child’s online presence.  

The measure requires social media companies to permanently delete personal information collected from terminated accounts and let parents bring civil lawsuits against those failing to do so. Companies will additionally be required to use a third-party verification system to screen out those who are underage or don’t have the proper consent. In addition to social media age restrictions, the new Florida statute requires online pornography services to use age-verification systems to keep minors off their platforms. 

Apps including Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram already have policies prohibiting children under the age of 13. That is because the federal  Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act requires certain online services to obtain parental permission before collecting personal information— such as full names, contact information, locations or selfie photos — from children under 13. But state regulators say millions of underage children have been able to sign up for social media accounts simply by providing false birth dates.

According to a legislative analysis prepared for the Florida bill in March 2023, Utah became the first U.S. state to adopt laws regulating children’s access to social media, followed by others including Arkansas, Louisiana, Ohio and Texas. The analysis said numerous additional states were contemplating similar regulations. However, the analysis failed to mention that federal judges in Ohio and Arkansas, for instance, have blocked laws in those states that would require social networks to verify users’ ages and obtain a parent’s permission before giving accounts to children under 16 or 18, on the grounds that the laws violate free speech. 

The bill will become law on Jan. 1, 2025. Desantis expressed confidently that the social media ban will be upheld. “Any time I see a bill, if I don’t think it’s constitutional, I veto it,” Desantis said. “We not only satisfied me, but we also satisfied, I think, a fair application of the law and Constitution.”

Leave a Reply