Social media ban for minors moves forward with exception for parental permission

by Robin Opsahl, Iowa Capital Dispatch
April 10, 2023

Minors would have to get parental permission to create accounts on TikTok, Instagram and other social media platforms under an amended bill that passed the House Ways and Means Committee Monday.

The original version of House File 712 would have barred people under age 18 from creating or using accounts on social media. The revised version of the bill steps that ban back, clarifying that parents or guardians are allowed to approve access to these platforms, as well as giving a more specific definition of what websites count as “social media.”

The changes came after representatives of companies including Amazon and Microsoft asked lawmakers to amend the bill. They said the original language could have prevented minors from having an Amazon account to make purchases, or from having a LinkedIn account to search for jobs.

Rep. John Wills, R-Spirit Lake, said he believes the amendment fixes the issues expressed by companies. The new language defines a social media platform as a public application that “enables users to communicate with other users for the primary purpose of posting information, comments, messages or images.” The prior version covered all online spaces where a user “provides information about themselves that is available to the public or to other users” and allows communication between users.

Wills said this language ensures that applications like Google Classroom are not impacted by the bill.

“We don’t want that we don’t want to make it burdensome for the educational side of things,” Wills said. “What we want to do is make sure that children are being protected from online bullying and from all of the other associated problems that go along with social media platforms.”

Opponents criticized the original bill for limiting parental rights by not giving parents the choice to allow their children on social media. Wills said the bill now gives parents that option, while also ensuring parents are more involved in their children’s internet use than currently required. Under current law, a 14-year-old can make a TikTok account without their parents being aware.

Wills said the primary concern of the bill is data collection. If parents decide to grant permission to their child for social media use, they are granting permission for social media platforms to collect their data. Social media sites typically collect information such as a person’s name, email address, phone number and picture. Some applications also collect data on a user’s interests and searches for targeted advertising campaigns.

Former Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller joined a probe into Meta, the company that owns Facebook and Instagram, in 2021. The AGs are investigating whether Meta violated consumer protection laws and put the public at risk when using youth data to create an algorithm for showing content that encourages minors to stay on the platform, but is linked with increased mental health problems in teenagers, especially among girls.

“We don’t want to stop people from accessing the social media platform,” Wills said. “But what we do want to do is make sure that the parent knows that they’re accessing these social media platforms.”

Iowa is not the only state considering legislation restricting minors’ social media use. Utah lawmakers passed a bill requiring parental permission for minors to use social media in March, and other state legislatures including Arkansas and Minnesota are considering similar measures.

The Iowa bill moves on to consideration by the full House.

Iowa Capital Dispatch is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Iowa Capital Dispatch maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Kathie Obradovich for questions: Follow Iowa Capital Dispatch on Facebook and Twitter.

Posted by on Apr 11 2023. Filed under Local News, National News, State News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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