Social media platforms originally started to help connect people and friends digitally and quickly became a digital gathering place for individuals to talk and share. However, over the past years, it has infiltrated our lives as an information broadcaster, social movement advocator, and a worldwide direct marketing venue. With a purpose that has had positive and negative impacts on our society and our children.

When Facebook started in 2005 only 5% of American adults were users of the platform. By 2011 half of all Americans were users and in 2021, 72% were social media users. Thirty-eight percent of the children between 8 to 12 years old and 84% of children between 13 and 18 use social media platforms. Children between the ages of 13 to 17 years old reported that they use social media continuously. As with any platform or venue, the continuous direct influence on our children provides every lasting effect which could both be beneficial and detrimental.

The 2024 Florida Legislature and Governor Ron DeSantis saw the extreme negative impacts of social platforms on our children and passed and signed House Bill 3 into law which will become effective on January 1, 2025. Governor Ron DeSantis stated, “Social media harms children in a variety of ways.” “HB 3 gives parents a greater ability to protect their children.” House Speaker, Paul Renner stated, “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.”

House Bill 3 provides the following provisions “to social media platforms that use certain addictive features that have a certain number of daily active users younger than 16 years of age who spend 2 hours or more on the platform a day, the bill requires such platforms to:”

  • “For minors under 14 years of age:

Prohibit such a minor from entering into a contract with the platform to become an account holder.

Terminate any existing account that the platform knows or has reason to believe is held by an account holder younger than 14 years of age.”

  • “For minors 14 or 15 years of age:

Prohibit such a minor from entering into a contract with a platform to become an account holder, unless there is parental consent.

Terminate any existing account that the platform knows or has reason to believe is held by an account holder 14 or 15 years of age unless there is parental consent.”

However, if a court enjoins the provisions requiring parental consent for accounts for minors 14 or 15 years of age, the bill severs such provisions and instead requires a prohibition on such accounts and termination of any such existing account, regardless of parental consent.”

  • “Allow an account holder younger than 16 years of age or a confirmed parent or guardian of such an account holder to request to terminate the account.”
  • “Permanently delete all personal information held by the social media platform relating to a terminated account, unless there are legal requirements to maintain such information.”

“In addition to protecting children from the dangers of social media, HB 3 requires pornographic or sexually explicit websites to use age verification to prevent minors from accessing sites that are inappropriate for children.”

The bill also holds platforms and commercial entities accountable for violations of the requirements of certain minor users to be liable under the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practice Act, solely by the Department of Legal Affairs.

These types of platforms have found a way of bringing the world to us virtually without having to leave our great community. Such infiltration should be embraced with caution and protection for not only adults but also our children. As with anything too much could be harmful and the old adage of “with good comes evil” seems to always prevail. So we must all be determined to find ways to supersede the evil that prevails.  In August and November 2024, I hope you will vote for leadership who will amicably work together with local, state, federal, and community leaders to keep our great community both safe and strong.

I will leave you with those thoughts and that concludes this week’s The Straight Truth With Mary Ann Hutton.

Mary Ann Hutton

(850) 209-2818