New law requires parental consent for kids under 16 to use social media

Source: | The Enquirer &

The new law, named the “Social Media Parental Notification Act,” set to take effect in Ohio on January 15, mandates parental consent for children under the age of 16 to use social media platforms. This law, part of the state’s annual budget signed by Ohio Governor Mike DeWine in July, is a pioneering step towards regulating the use of social media by minors.

Under this legislation, companies are required to obtain parental or legal guardian consent to their terms of service before allowing individuals under 16 to use their platforms. This includes major social media and online gaming companies such as Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, TikTok, and Snapchat, but excludes e-commerce platforms. In cases where a parent or guardian refuses or fails to consent, the company must deny access to the child.

To comply with the law, companies must establish methods to verify if a user is under 16 and then obtain verifiable consent from a parent or guardian. Verification methods include signing a digital form, using a credit or debit card, calling a toll-free number, connecting via video-conference, or checking a government-issued identification. After obtaining consent, companies must send written confirmation to the parent or guardian.

This law is being introduced following concerns raised by Lt. Gov. Jon Husted about the addictive nature of social media and its detrimental impact on children’s mental health. Husted advocates for more parental control over the digital lives of their children, hoping to limit interaction and time spent on devices and apps, and ensuring age-appropriate content.

Some social media companies, like Meta, have already implemented features to support teenagers and their families. Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram, uses age verification technology and has set accounts to private for users under 16. The company has developed tools for parental supervision and age-appropriate online experiences, as stated by Meta spokesperson Rachel Holland. Meta’s Director of Global Head of Safety, Antigone Davis, has called for industry-wide collaboration with lawmakers to create efficient parental consent solutions.

While similar laws have been passed in other states, such as Utah, they have faced legal challenges. In some cases, like in Arkansas, these laws have been blocked by judges. NetChoice, a coalition of trade associations, e-commerce businesses, and online consumers, has been a vocal opponent of Ohio’s new legislation.

Non-compliance with the law will lead to civil penalties and fines, as specified in the law’s revised code. The law reflects Ohio’s commitment to more aggressive measures if companies fail to comply with these new requirements. This article by Kayla Bennett, a fellow in the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism’s Statehouse News Bureau, provides an in-depth look at the law and its implications for social media companies and young users.

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