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

Florida Senate passes an amended social media bill that includes more parental consent

At right, Rep. Erin Grall, R-Vero Beach Rep. asks a question to Jay Trumbull, R-Panama City about his bill titled CS/SB 2-D: Property Insurance in the Florida House of Representatives Wednesday, May 25, 2022 at the Capitol in Tallahassee, Fla. The bill passed 95-14. (AP Photo/Phil Sears)
Phil Sears
State Sen. Erin Grall, an attorney, says parts of the new social media bill take into account issues that have led to similar laws getting blocked in other states.

With legal challenges still likely, the state Senate overwhelmingly advanced a revamped plan to keep children off social media days after an original bill was vetoed by the governor.

Florida lawmakers are prepared to give parents more control over what their child watches online.

A revised social media bill cleared the Senate Monday that lowers the minimum age to 14 for children to own a social media account. The vote was 30-5.

The changes were made after Gov. Ron DeSantis on Friday vetoed the original proposal (HB 1) that called for tech companies to ban users under age 16 with no parental consent needed.

House Speaker Paul Renner, who has made a priority of the social-media issue, negotiated the revamped plan with DeSantis. Renner, R-Palm Coast, and other supporters contend that social media harms children’s mental health and can lead to sexual predators communicating with minors.

Sen. Erin Grall, R-Fort Pierce, said the new bill (HB 3) lets parents be involved.

"We don't want the parental consent provision to be too onerous in order to let the policy move forward,” she said during the Senate session.

The amendment allows for 14- and 15-year-olds to create and maintain social media accounts, as long as a parent or guardian says it's OK.

The revamped proposal also gives tech companies options to use “standard or anonymous” age-verification methods.

Grall said these changes will ensure Floridians don't have to give up personal identifying information.

“We are trying to give the platforms the most flexibility possible in order to meet the parameters of the bill," Grall said.

Sen. Bobby Powell, D-West Palm Beach, said the new measure is just as bad as the first. Before Monday's passage, he told lawmakers that parents should have the opportunity to decide what’s best for their children, regardless of age.

“Sometimes I think we start passing legislation that we believe is well-intentioned," said Powell. "It really starts to become invasive into a person’s household in terms of what they need to be doing.”

Sen. Tina Polsky, D-Boca Raton, said the state will run into legal problems because of the revamped bill.

“For the government to come in and say, 'Nope, we’ve decided the age is 14.' I still think it runs into all the constitutional problems we've discussed," said Sen. Polsky.

Other states' efforts to regulate social media have not been successful in federal courts, and several groups along with the social media companies are likely to challenge the Florida effort in court.

Grall, an attorney, indicated that backers of the new bill hope courts will address issues such as whether social media platforms use “addictive” features that harm children. She also said parts of the bill take into account issues that have led to laws getting blocked in other states.

Along with Powell and Polsky, dissenting votes were cast by Sen. Linda Stewart, D-Orlando, Sen. Geraldine Thompson, D-Windermere, and Sen. Victor Torres, D-Orlando.

The revised bill next heads to the House for final approval.

Information from News Service of Florida was used in this report.

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.