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June 8, 2024

New York Legislature Passes Bill to Regulate ‘Addictive’ Social Media Feeds for Kids

The New York state Legislature has taken a significant step to address the growing concerns surrounding social media usage among children. On Friday, they passed a bill that empowers parents to block their children from receiving algorithmically suggested posts, which critics argue are addictive. Governor Kathy Hochul, a Democrat, is expected to sign the bill into law.

This legislative move reflects the increasing alarm over the impact of social media on children’s mental health and the broader effort to regulate tech platforms at both state and federal levels. The bill specifically targets content deemed addictive by preventing platforms from showing suggested posts to users under 18. Instead, children will only see posts from accounts they follow. However, they can still receive suggested posts if there is verifiable parental consent.

Additionally, the bill restricts platforms from sending notifications about suggested posts to minors between midnight and 6 AM unless there is parental consent. This measure aims to curb the constant digital engagement that can disrupt children’s sleep patterns and overall well-being.

Attorney General Letitia James, a key proponent of the bill, is tasked with developing rules to determine users’ ages and mechanisms for obtaining parental consent. These guidelines must be established before the bill can take effect, which will occur 180 days after their implementation. James emphasized the urgency of this regulation, stating, “Our children are enduring a mental health crisis, and social media is fueling the fire and profiting from the epidemic.”

As expected, the tech industry has strongly opposed the bill, arguing that it constitutes unconstitutional censorship. Critics also raise concerns about the practicalities of age verification and the potential privacy implications for young users. Despite these challenges, some platforms have already started implementing parental controls in response to mounting regulatory pressure. For instance, Meta, the parent company of Instagram and Facebook, introduced tools last year to help parents set time limits and monitor their children’s usage on Instagram.

Other states have also attempted to regulate children’s social media use, with varying degrees of success. Earlier this year, Utah overhauled its social media youth restrictions after facing legal challenges, and a federal judge in Arkansas blocked a policy requiring parental consent for minors to create social media accounts.

At the federal level, lawmakers have held numerous congressional hearings on child safety in social media but have yet to pass comprehensive legislation. The fragmented regulatory landscape highlights the complexity of addressing this issue on a national scale.

The New York state Assembly gave the bill its final passage on Friday, following approval by the state Senate on Thursday. This legislation marks a pivotal moment in the ongoing debate over the role of social media in children’s lives and the responsibilities of tech companies to protect younger users. As Governor Hochul prepares to sign the bill, all eyes will be on New York to see how these new regulations will be implemented and enforced, and whether they will serve as a model for other states grappling with similar concerns.

Read more latest news on R9 News

Jhumpa Lahiri

Jhumpa Lahiri

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