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Florida Passes Children’s Online Safety Law


On March 25, 2024, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed HB3 into law, a new piece of legislation that introduces online safety requirements for children under the age of 16. 

Specifically, the law “prohibits children under the age of 14 from becoming social media account holders and allows 14 and 15-year-olds to become account holders with parental consent” according to the official press release

Here are the key points of the law: 

  • Aim: To protect minors online by regulating social media platforms and the distribution of harmful material.
  • Requirements for Social Media Platforms:
    • For Minors Under 14 Years of Age: Prohibit account creation, require account termination, and mandate deletion of personal information upon termination.
    • For Minors Aged 14-15: Require parental consent for account creation, terminate accounts without consent, and similarly require deletion of personal information upon termination.
  • Requirements for Distributing Harmful Material: Commercial entities must verify users are 18+ years old before allowing them access to harmful material, using either anonymous or standard age verification methods.
  • Enforcing authority: Department of Legal Affairs
  • Penalties: Civil penalties up to $50,000 per violation, potential for punitive damages, and private causes of action are authorized.
  • Effective Date: January 1, 2025.

According to the bill analysis there is a  widespread use of social media among minors and associated risks, such as depression and exposure to harmful material. HB 3 comes to curb these risks by setting age-related restrictions and parental consent requirements for social media usage, as well as mandating age verification for accessing harmful material to mitigate the negative impacts of social media and the internet on minors by instituting regulatory requirements for social media platforms and content distributors, with the intention of fostering a safer online environment for young users.

Because there is both a positive and a negative impact of social media on minors, the analysis emphasizes the concern over addictive designs and deceptive patterns (e.g., infinite scrolling, autoplay) that can exacerbate the negative impacts.

In light of this, the analysis offers several important statistics and details regarding the use of social media and its effects on children and adolescents:

  • In 2023, approximately 4.9 billion people worldwide were using social media. There is a correlation between increased social media use and rising rates of depression, anxiety, and stress among adolescents. In addition to this, there is regular exposure of minors to online pornography.
  • About 38% of children aged 8 to 12 and 84% of teenagers aged 13 to 18 use social media. More than one-third of teens report using social media "almost constantly." Social media can have both positive effects (enhancing communication skills, making new friends, etc.) and negative effects (depression, anxiety, poor body image, exposure to harmful content, etc.) on minors.

In the press release regarding the signing of the law, Gov. DeSantis stated the following: 

Social media harms children in a variety of ways [...]. HB 3 gives parents a greater ability to protect their children. Thank you to Speaker Renner for delivering this landmark legislation.

House Speaker Paul Renner, who introduced HB 3, stated the following:

The internet has become a dark alley for our children where predators target them and dangerous social media leads to higher rates of depression, self-harm, and even suicide [...]. I am proud of the work of all our bill sponsors, Representatives Tyler Sirois, Fiona McFarland, Michele Rayner, Chase Tramont, and Toby Overdorf for delivering a legislative framework that prioritizes keeping our children safe. Thanks to Governor DeSantis’ signature, Florida leads the way in protecting children online as states across the country fight to address these dangers.