Growing list of conservative groups rally behind Speaker’s top priority

Divorced parents arguing about child custody on light background
Parental advocacy groups show divides over legislation, but Paul Rennner's Office spotlighted growing support on the Right.

A coalition of conservative organizations and think tanks have started rallying around a social media ban for most children. That includes a parental rights group that spent years championing a Parents’ Bill of Rights.

But divides still remain, even among more right-leaning groups.

Parental Rights Florida recently launched a campaign encouraging supporters to reach out to Gov. Ron DeSantis and voice support for the bill.

“I believe great effort was taken to thread the needle and it will clearly stand as a new precedent with constitutional clarity, specifically regarding the platforms” said Patti Sullivan, President of Parental Rights Florida.

“It is not about speech. It is not about content. It is about addictive features. This is crystal clear. I believe this bill will significantly protect our children and further strengthen parental rights.”

The legislation (HB 1) would prohibit anyone under age 16 from opening or maintaining a social media account on platforms with addictive features.

The public stance by Parental Rights Florida shows how the legislation has divided parents groups on the Left and Right.

The Florida PTA, which has criticized many moves by the Legislature purportedly in the name of protecting children, launched a letter-writing campaign last week urging DeSantis to veto the bill.

“While the problems that some social media platforms create for children — and adults — merit serious consideration and prompt remedial action, the Florida Legislature has chosen to use a sledgehammer rather than the scalpel this complicated issue requires,” the Florida PTA campaign said.

“The Legislature needs to start fresh, seek the very best in technical advice, and craft a new bill. Let’s set them on that path.”

Moms for Liberty co-founder Tiffany Justice, a conservative voice on parents rights, last week told the USA Today Network she opposed the legislation as well, though she stressed she did not speak for the organization and its membership is divided on the issue.

“Parents have fundamental rights to direct the upbringing of their children,” she told the media outlet. “You’re not allowed to abuse your children. But should the government be controlling whether or not your kids use social media?”

The conversation escalated in recent days as the bill hit DeSantis’ desk for his signature. But the Governor has questioned if the legislation can pass legal muster. Parental rights remain DeSantis’ central voiced concern.

“While I think that there are harms associated with (social media), I do think parents could supervise in ways where it’s used in ways that could be beneficial,” DeSantis told press last week.

Parental Rights Florida, a state arm of the Parental Rights Foundation, spent years lobbying lawmakers on the Parents’ Bill of Rights that DeSantis signed in 2021. It closely worked with then-Rep. Erin Grall, a Fort Pierce Republican, at the time. Grall now serves in the Senate and ushered the social media ban through the chamber before the Legislature ultimately passed the bill last week.

Parental Rights Florida was among several socially conservative groups rallying around the bill over the weekend.

“Social media protections are absolutely needed due to the increasing risks of organized conflicts and cyberbullying that not only jeopardize the safety of minors but also exacerbate mental health issues, including depression and suicidal tendencies, for those who are increasingly glued to handheld devices,” said Keith Flaugh, co-founder and CEO of the Florida Citizens Alliance.

The political arm for The Heritage Foundation also rallied around the bill.

“HB 1 shields children from online exploitation by banning addictive social media and other harmful online platforms for minors under 16,” said Karen Jaroch, state director for Heritage Action.

And the Ethics and Public Policy Center, a conservative think tank in Washington, also backed the legislation.

“Florida’s social media bill marks a landmark step in protecting children from the harms of social media,” said Clare Morell, senior policy analyst. “HB 1 will empower parents in FL — no longer will parents have to face societal peer pressure to give their child social media or fear their child’s social isolation by not giving it.”

The bill has been a priority for Speaker Paul Renner, who touted the support among conservative and law enforcement groups.

“House Bill 1 is being hailed by grassroots, parent groups and law enforcement organizations as the most consequential proposal to keep children safe and give parents more control over what their children access online,” his office said in a statement.

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].


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