Parental permission still not allowed in Senate version of social media ban

Portland, OR, USA - Nov 13, 2023: Assorted social media and social networking apps are seen on an iPhone, including TikTok, Threads, Instagram, YouTube, X, Wizz, Snapchat, Facebook, and Tumblr.
Senators approved a strike-all on the floor, but it still doesn't address a chief concern from Gov. DeSantis.

The Senate continues to adjust a controversial ban on social media for Floridians under age 16. But legislation (HB 1) ready for a vote in the Senate still doesn’t allow parents final say whether kids can log into platforms. That means the bill could run headlong into the veto pen, as Gov. Ron DeSantis questions whether such a restriction can pass muster in court.

Regardless, legislative leaders held strong that Florida law should not allow children to face mental health threats just because they scored a permission slip from their parents. Sen. Erin Grall, a Fort Pierce Republican, said the state needs to treat access to addictive platforms the same as other social ills.

“A parent should never be able to consent to a child’s drug use,” Grall said. “This is a different version of drug use than most of us have ever seen. But it is just as bad.”

She suggested fears about parental rights ignore the fact that platforms change without notice.

“It’s the dynamic nature of these platforms that have been open about their intent to addict our children and keep them in excessive compulsive behavior in order to make money off of the backs of their behavior and keep them in the platform,” Grall said.

Senate Democratic Leader Lauren Book said she’s aware of the ills online.

“I know what sexual abuse material is and I know how bad that is. I also know very personally what it is to have a family member who is a self-mutilator because of social media platforms,” the Davie Democrat said. “But that’s not getting to the root and crux of the question, which is one of parental rights. Is it not my right to play YouTube Kids for my children?”

When it comes to defining what social media platforms get covered by the legislation, the bill focuses on features, not brand names.

Grall focused on addictive features like unlimited scrolling. An amendment approved on the House floor would cover any platform where 10% or more of young users spend at least two hours a day online.

The bill allows parents to demand social media platforms to delete their children’s accounts if they learn their kids are online. But it doesn’t let parents to authorize a platform’s use, even if the parent feels it has benefits for the child. Grall argued that America’s youth, particularly young girls, have suffered since social media became part of everyday life.

“We know that U.S. teen girls who had major depression nearly doubled from 2010 to 2020. We know ER visits due to self-inflicted wounds rose sharply from 2009 to 2019 Among 10- to 19-year-old girls.”

Grall also said even if platforms had the best intentions, they can’t control when some users post dangerous and exploitative information harming children.

The Senate shot down an amendment filed by Sen. Tina Polsky, a Boca Raton Democrat, that would have at least allowed young entrepreneurs to access social media.

“There are also young entrepreneurs who are running their own businesses that either relate to social media or they need to advertise on social media in order to showcase their business,” Polsky said.

But Grall argued such carve-outs undermined the purpose of the bill. She noted many of the Democrats arguing for the bill argued against legislation allowing youth to hold labor jobs at a younger age.

Democrats also raised questions about whether the bill could even be enforced, or if there aren’t workarounds even in the bill as written. Sen. Jason Pizzo, a Miami Beach Shores Democrat, asked if the bill allows a parent to simply create an account in their own name and let their children use it.

Grall said nothing stops children from looking at their parents’ accounts, but platforms have an obligation to shut down accounts if they know they are primarily being used by those under the age of 16. The bill requires third-party providers to verify new accounts indeed belong to those legally old enough to register.

The House already passed a version of the bill in January, but the changes introduced in the Senate mean the bill will bounce back to the lower chamber for another vote. Among the changes, the bill has substantively been combined with an user age-verification requirement for pornography websites which also already cleared the House.

House Speaker Paul Renner, who made the legislation a top priority this Session, signaled his support for the amended bill.

But DeSantis has yet to do the same.

“I’m sympathetic to, as a parent, what’s going on with our youth. But I also understand that to just say that someone that’s 15 just cannot have it no matter what, even if the parent consents, that may create some legal issues,” DeSantis said at a press conference in Kissimmee.

Several states — including Utah, Louisiana, Texas, Arkansas and Ohio — enacted restrictions on minors using social media. All have faced legal challenges, though none of those laws have been struck down. While Florida would be the first state to impose a complete ban, Grall said the bill avoids some legal problems included by lawmakers in other states, such as spotlighting specific platforms in statute.

The Governor said he won’t support the bill if doesn’t think it can “pass legal muster in the courts.” That means he could veto the bill, or he could let it become law without his signature.

Meta and other platforms — including pornography publishers — have said they don’t necessarily oppose regulation on youth usage but believe regulation should occur at the device level. Specifically, Meta has called for a requirement at the app store level for parents to sign off before any applications get downloaded onto a phone.

Jacob Ogles

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at [email protected].


  • Julia

    February 21, 2024 at 5:49 pm

    Earning $29,000. When you’re ready to give it some serious thought, start with some of the most respectable businesses that provide real work-from-home opportunities. In order to locate the ideal remote employment, ensure that the positions you apply for are affiliated with cx05 reputable businesses.

    Look at this………………………………

  • Cheesy Floridian

    February 21, 2024 at 8:46 pm

    I think it should be up to parents not the state if i allow my kids to use social media. This isn’t China

    • Dont Say FLA

      February 22, 2024 at 9:13 am

      I agree, and I will add that it already is up to parents if they allow their kids to use social media. Why the state shoving their nose in it? Oh- it’s so everybody has to prove who they are to use social media. That way when the state comes sniffing around to see who wrote what, it’s less work to find out.

  • Josh Green

    February 22, 2024 at 12:42 pm

    Sign it Ron! Turn an entire next generation of voters Blue.

Comments are closed.


Florida Politics is a statewide, new media platform covering campaigns, elections, government, policy, and lobbying in Florida. This platform and all of its content are owned by Extensive Enterprises Media.

Publisher: Peter Schorsch @PeterSchorschFL

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Drew Dixon, Roseanne Dunkelberger, A.G. Gancarski, Anne Geggis, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, Cole Pepper, Gray Rohrer, Jesse Scheckner, Christine Sexton, Drew Wilson, and Mike Wright.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @PeterSchorschFL
Phone: (727) 642-3162
Address: 204 37th Avenue North #182
St. Petersburg, Florida 33704

Sign up for Sunburn