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Georgia Eyes Social Media Rules for Kids as Other States Struggle

As Georgia introduces new legislation to address cyberbullying and regulate teenage social media use, other states with comparative laws are facing staunch legal challenges related to privacy.

Popular social media icons seen on the screen of a smartphone.
“Social media touches every part of our daily lives, and while it certainly has its benefits, the potential negative impacts it has on our children cannot be dismissed.” That’s what Georgia Lt. Gov. Burt Jones stated last summer as he and state Sen. Jason Anavitarte announced that cyberbullying and teen social media use would be legislative priorities in 2024.

Jones is holding true to his word, officially introducing Senate Bill 351, also known as the Protecting Georgia's Children on Social Media Act of 2024, to address social media’s potential impact on children’s mental health.

The proposed legislation mandates that social media platforms implement effective measures for the age verification of users. Additionally, the bill requires the state Department of Education to create and regularly update educational programs to teach students safe social media usage rules. This includes local school systems adopting, implementing, and enforcing social media policies, subject to review by the Georgia Board of Education. Failure to comply may result in the loss of state funds for non-compliant districts.

“Since we announced this initiative in August, Sen. Anavitarte and I have worked with industry and education leaders, online safety advocates, and legal experts to craft this legislation, and we will continue working with them as this process moves forward,” Jones said in a recent press release. “We believe SB 351 is an important step forward in protecting Georgia’s children and giving them the tools they need to be safe in their use of social media and other technologies.”

The official bill text states that “methods of discouraging bullying and violent acts against fellow students and methods of promoting responsible digital citizenship and the safe and appropriate use of technology, the Internet and social media,” must be included in what is known as a “character curriculum” for students.

“No kid should have to worry and stress about bullying and online threats,” Anavitarte said in the press release.

At the same time, several other states are struggling to pass similar regulatory laws regarding teenage social media use amid fierce opposition from critics.

A bill signed into law in Arkansas last year would have required social media companies to utilize third-party vendors to perform age verification checks for any users creating new accounts but a judge issued an injunction on behalf of NetChoice — a tech advocacy group that represents TikTok, Facebook parent Meta, and X. The judge cited the legislation discourages free speech and undermines user privacy rights.

And this type of opposition is a common theme, also appearing in states like Ohio and Utah.

The Social Media Operators Act, which gained approval from the Ohio General Assembly last July, was slated to become effective on Jan. 15. The bill mandates that social media platforms secure parental consent if the individual creating a new account is under 16. It also requires platforms to provide parents with tools for censoring or moderating inappropriate content. Following consent, platforms are obligated to dispatch written confirmation of a child's account to their parent or guardian. However, in response to a NetChoice lawsuit — similar to what occurred in Arkansas — enforcement of the bill has been halted.

In Utah, numerous lawsuits argue the state’s proposed Social Media Regulation Act is unconstitutional. The Utah bill specifies that social media platforms must verify users' ages, obtain parental consent for minors to use their apps, and offer parents tools to manage the content their children access. But in a sudden change of direction, Utah Gov. Spencer Cox signed a bill last week that postpones enactment of the state's Social Media Regulation Act from March 1 to Oct. 1 of this year in order to complete revisions to the bill that will make legal challenges more difficult.