Two Georgia Republicans want parents to give explicit permission for their children to create social media accounts and are preparing legislation to make this a legal requirement in their home state.
Lt. Gov. Burt Jones and state Senate Majority Caucus Chair Jason Anavitarte announced the initiative to crack down on teenage social media usage and cyberbullying. They said their legislation would require companies “to take concrete steps to verify the age of their users.”
If the law were enacted, social media companies would need to demonstrate that users are either above 18 years of age or that they have parental consent if they are younger. The bill will be introduced in the 2024 legislative session.
“As the parent of young kids, we must keep our kids safe with social media by empowering parents, and we need to ensure we crack down on cyberbullying of our youth in Georgia and across America,” Anavitarte told Fox News Digital.
Jones said that while social media is part of everyone’s daily lives, “the potential negative impacts it has on our children cannot be dismissed.”
Burt and Jones plan to include a requirement for companies to remove “addictive content” from their platforms. This may refer to viral “trends,” which are particularly popular among teenagers but aren’t always safe.
“Our goal is to ensure we’re safeguarding students against the harmful aspects of social media while maintaining their ability to learn, grow and connect with the world around them,” Jones said.
According to the lawmakers, current Georgia regulations that require schools to monitor bullying and provide education to students and teachers would be “updated to reflect the realities of modern technology.” Furthermore, social media giants would need to eliminate features they are aware of or discover to be addictive to children.
Anavitarte said he’s had preliminary discussions with Meta Platforms, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram. He and Jones said they plan to have more discussions with the social media companies about their plans next year.
Last month, a 16-year-old girl in Atlanta died by suicide, and her mother attributed online cyberbullying to the child’s mental health decline.
Georgia is not the first state to propose such legislation to limit children’s usage on social media platforms. These new regulations coincide with similar proposals that have emerged in other states like Louisiana, Texas and Ohio.
Utah and Arkansas passed laws this year to limit social media access for those younger than 18. California passed a similar law this year that requires online services to enhance their efforts in safeguarding children’s privacy and safety.