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Get the latest coverage of the 2024 Florida legislative session in Tallahassee from our coverage partners and WUSF.

Florida House committee approves bill to ban minors from social media

A view of an iPhone in Washington Tuesday, May 21, 2013, showing the Twitter and Facebook apps among others. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis vetoed House Bill 1, which calls for the removal of all social media accounts held by kids under 16. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
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A view of an iPhone., Tuesday, May 21, 2013, showing the Twitter and Facebook apps among others. Legislation aimed at cracking down on social media will be making its way through both chambers in the upcoming Florida legislative session. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Florida legislature is tackling the issues of social media and its potentially harmful effects on minors.

The bill (HB-1) is called “Social Media Use for Minors”, and it would block teens under the age of 16 from creating social media accounts like Facebook, TikTok, or Instagram.

The proposal would also require social media companies to delete any existing accounts or information stored by their app, with or without permission from the child’s parent. Florida Representative Tyler Sirois (R-Brevard) says his bill goes a long way toward keeping kids safe.

Florida Rep. Tyler Sirois is shown on the front left. The House Regulatory Reform Subcommittee approved HB-1 Thursday. It’s been a priority of House Speaker Paul Renner and other Republicans in the days leading up to the session.  FILE-- Thursday, Jan. 13, 2022, in Tallahassee, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)
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Florida Rep. Tyler Sirois, front left, views maps on a video monitor during a Florida House of Representatives Redistricting Committee hearing in a legislative session, Thursday, Jan. 13, 2022, in Tallahassee, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

“Social media would be the primary concern listed on that list of many concerns that we as parents understand and review daily when it comes to our kids," said Sirois. "Social media and the impact that’s it having on our youth, is a concern.”

The House Regulatory Reform & Economic Development Subcommittee approved the measure Thursday. It’s been a priority of House Speaker Paul Rennerand other Republicans in the days leading up to the session. However, Democrats argue the proposal restricts children’s freedom of speech. Representative Ashley Gantt (D-Miami) even went as far as to say the measure bars parental rights and possibly hurts the pockets of young influencers.

“There are parents who sustain their families on their child being an influencer or having a social media presence, that won’t be allowed,” said Gantt.

Other concerns include the question of whether the state can even enforce such a law. The bill says the legislature would force social media companies to use “reasonable age verification” methods to check the ages of new users. But even Representative Fiona McFarland (R-Sarasota), the bill’s sponsor, acknowledges kids will still find loopholes.

State Rep. Fiona McFarland, center, smiles as she talks with Rep. Alex Rizo as Rep. Randall Scott Maggard, right, looks on during a legislative session, Thursday, April 29, 2021, at the Capitol in Tallahassee, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
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State Rep. Fiona McFarland, center, smiles as she talks with Rep. Alex Rizo as Rep. Randall Scott Maggard, right, looks on during a legislative session, Thursday, April 29, 2021, at the Capitol in Tallahassee, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

“We’re setting the framework where we want the protections to be," said McFarland. "When it comes to compliance, we’re lawmakers, we write laws all the time and they’re broken all the time. So even if we set the most ironclad excellent framework, I’m certain particularly in Florida where we have the most enterprising and creative youth, there will be exceptions.”

Under the measure, the state can bring lawsuits for those who violate the social media law. Companies could potentially face fines of $50,000.

Adrian Andrews is a multimedia journalist with WFSU Public Media. He is a Gadsden County native and a first-generation college graduate from Florida A&M University. Adrian is also a military veteran, ending his career as a Florida Army National Guard Non-Comissioned Officer.

Adrian has experience in print writing, digital content creation, documentary, and film production. He has spent the last four years on the staff of several award-winning publications such as The Famuan, Gadsden County News Corp, and Cumulus Media before joining the WFSU news team.