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Hot Take: Why the Florida Social Media Restriction is a Positive Thing

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UCF chapter.

Over the past couple of years, Florida has passed several laws that have become the center of controversy throughout the nation. From college course restrictions to teen labor regulations, the recent laws passed by Gov. Ron DeSantis have raised many eyebrows. However, a measure passed last month concerning social media use for minors may have sparked one of the largest debates.

DeSantis signed a bill on Mar. 25 that would ban all children under 14 from social media, with a parental permission requirement for those aged 14 and 15. The law would effectively make it much harder for anyone under the age of 16 to use social media, making it arguably the most restrictive social media law in the country thus far. It is set to take effect on January 1 of next year, although it is expected to face several legal challenges.

Critics of the law cite potential constitutional violations, particularly concerning the First Amendment rights of minors to access and share information online. Others also argue that the parents, and not the government, should be the ones who determine if their child is allowed to use social media. While both of these arguments hold plenty of validity, I believe they are outweighed by the great risks posed to children by social media.

Our country is facing a mental health crisis, and adolescents and children are especially affected. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2019, 36.7% of children aged 12-17 reported having consistent feelings of sadness and hopelessness. Based on a study from last year, around 97% of children as young as 12 are now using social media, with over two-thirds reporting increased stress, anxiety, and a lower quality of life as a result of their use. It also does not help that, in the same study, three out of four children reported feeling dissatisfied with their appearance, which is aggravated by the algorithm on social media. As cited in the bill, this algorithm is designed to draw its users in, often through means of showing content detrimental to their self-esteem and mental health. Likewise, 95% of the children surveyed reported difficulty controlling their use of the apps, emphasizing their harmful addictive properties. Several other risks are associated with children on social media, and these are only the most critical, far-reaching ones.

This all begs several questions. First of all, what benefits are children experiencing by being on social media at such a young age? Some may say that it helps them to communicate and stay in touch with their peers. While this may be true in many cases, there are numerous other ways in which children can communicate online without putting their mental health at so much risk, such as texting. Secondly, why are so many children already on social media? There are many potential answers to this question, but I believe that the most common reason is the fear of missing out. This is something that we all felt as children and most likely still deal with in our daily lives. People understandably do not want to feel excluded from an activity that all their peers are taking part in. With social media usage being so normalized for kids, those who aren’t on it will feel like they are missing out. This is just another reason why I feel like the recent bill is needed, as a ban on children under a certain age on social media will almost eliminate this issue for them.

I understand that not everybody agrees with my take on the recent Florida bill. However, I believe the potential benefits of our children being on social media are far outweighed by the risks. According to data by Gallup, 13- and 14-year-olds spend an average of over four hours a day on social media, with the number only increasing with age. Is this really the most valuable way teens this age could spend their time? Not to mention, 13- and 14-year-olds especially are entering the phase where they start scrutinizing their bodies, appearances, and social lives to a much greater extent. Myself and most other girls my age can relate to this. An introduction to social media at this age is simply not necessary or helpful. 

I believe that the nation should be doing more to combat the prominent issue of mental health, especially in children and adolescents. The Florida social media restriction is most certainly a step in the right direction, and I believe other states should also consider imposing a similar law.

Mary Connolly is a Biomedical Sciences major at UCF with a minor in Political Science, originally from New Hampshire. In her free time, she enjoys doing community service, working out, and hanging out with her beloved Mini Aussie. Some other clubs that Mary is involved in include Catholic Campus Ministry, College Republicans, Volunteer UCF, and Omega Phi Alpha.