Utah Republican Governor Spencer Cox said Sunday that placing age limit restrictions on social media use is not fool-proof.
In an interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Cox admitted that enforcing a new state law requiring a parent’s permission for a child under 18 to use social media would be tough to enforce because kids can find ways around the rules.
“We understand that there are definitely going to be enforcement issues,” Cox told host Chuck Todd. “Any time you wade into this type of an industry, it’s going to be tough. And we don’t expect that we’re going to be able to prevent every young person from getting around this. Kids are really smart. That’s one of the problems.”
“I would prefer that Congress act,” Cox continued. “That’s where this should happen, and I think it will,” he said, pointing to a bill authored by Rep. Chris Stewart (R-UT) that would raise the minimum age to use social media to 16.
“[There is] broad bipartisan support,” he went on. “The president, in his State of the Union, said we need to do this. So I have President Biden, I have very conservative members of Congress working on this together. But the states have to lead out on this, and that’s what we’re doing … and then that helps Congress kind of coalesce and come to an agreement on how we prevent these terrible harms from happening.”
Cox argued that the new law is necessary to protect the health and safety of children.
“We know this is killing our kids,” he said. “We have to start there. The harm being done to our children far outweighs — and this started well before COVID, since 2012 — especially among young women, the rates of suicide, depression, anxiety, self-harm, have skyrocketed, and every research institution that has looked at this is pointing to social media as the cause.”
Cox signed two bills into law on Thursday that would regulate children’s use of social media as lawmakers in Congress questioned TikTok’s CEO over the platform’s effect on kids and national security. The legislation, which is the first of its kind in the nation, is expected to be challenged in court by social media companies. The laws, House Bill 311 and Senate Bill 152, were passed by the Republican-controlled Utah legislature earlier this year.
Included in the new legislation, which goes into effect in 2024, is a ban on social media use by children from 10:30 p.m. to 6:30 a.m., which parents will have the liberty to adjust. Additionally, children will not show up in search results under the new law and will not be able to receive direct messages from those they are not friends with or following.
A provision in HB 311 allows children to sue for damages related to social media use. This takes aim at “addictive” features in social media, including “a $250,000 fine for social media companies which use addictive design features” and “a penalty of up to $2,500 per child exposed to an addictive feature.” For those under 16, there will be a presumption of harm unless proven otherwise, according to the Utah government.
Leif Le Mahieu contributed to this report.