Utah’s Social Media Ban: Who Will Enforce and Which States Will Follow Suit?

Two weeks ago, Utah Governor Spencer Cox signed two bills into law that would restrict minors’ access to social media. As the first state in the country to enact such a restrictive law, many wonder if other states might follow suit in an effort to protect youth from ‘predatory’ social media companies. Many more, however, are left wondering exactly how and who will be monitoring minors’ use of media, who have proved time and time again that age restrictions are no barrier to their media access.

Collectively known as the Social Media Regulation Act, the two bills will limit minors’ access to social media between the hours of 10:30 p.m. to 6:30 a.m. and require a parent’s express consent in order to sign up for apps like Twitter, Instagram and TikTok. The bills, set to take effect on March 1, 2024, require social media companies to verify the age of Utah residents and obtain the consent of a parent or guardian if said resident is under the age of 18. The intense scrutiny on underage users doesn’t end once they create an account, the bill also requires social media companies to provide parents with administrative access to users’ direct messages and interactions. Basically, parents would have unfettered access to their children’s virtual diaries. 

Additionally, the Social Media Regulation Act points directly to social media companies to alter the design and function of their apps. H.B. 311 prohibits companies from applying features that “causes a minor to have an addiction to the company’s social media platform.” While the bill fails to specifically address the functions that would contribute to a user’s obsession with a platform, it does point to the social media companies to perform regular audits of their practices to determine if the company complies with the regulations. The bill also establishes a civil penalty of $250,000 for each case of addiction-inducing design that a platform exposes to a minor. The subsection even goes so far as to provide minors with an avenue to seek reparations for any damages, financial, physical or emotional, suffered after March 1, 2024. If found to be a direct consequence of social media use, any damages suffered by a minor could result in a $2,500 reward. 

Gov. Cox himself said in a press conference last Sunday that the bill won’t be foolproof. “Kids are really smart,” he said. “We don’t expect that we’re going to be able to prevent every young person from getting around this.” Around the country, advocacy groups and health professionals are debating the potential drawbacks and benefits of the bill. Some point to the notion that unfettered access to the internet has allowed kids to form communities they otherwise wouldn’t have found, especially in the case of queer and at-risk youth. Others cite recent studies that show the increase of teen depression amongst the Gen-Z and Alpha generations. At the federal level, lawmakers are beginning to crack down on media giants like TikTok and states around the country are proposing similar bans. 

Who’s Enforcing the Social Media Regulation Act?

Proponents of the law point to the relationship between mental health and social media, arguing that modern youth are much more likely to become depressed or even suicidal due to heightened exposure to the internet. While minors could likely benefit from moderating their social media use, it’s unclear what party should be charged with that responsibility. S.B. 152 and H.B. 311 mainly point to social media companies to ascertain the age of users, which could require kids, their parents and other users to upload birth certificates, government IDs or use facial recognition technology—ultimately giving apps access to sensitive information like biometric data. 

While some argue the new bill puts the responsibility in the hands of parents to decide what their child does and doesn’t see, others argue that the role of parenting is being handed over to the media companies themselves. By altering functions of apps to denote which advertisements and content minors do or don’t see, social media companies will not only be censoring content but interfering with kids’ right to internet privacy. 

When it comes to enforcing the law, Utah Gov. Spencer Cox says the state’s Department of Commerce would oversee the regulations and would work with social media companies through the coming year during the rule-making process. Cox understands the transition will be difficult, and already anticipates legal challenges by tech lobbyists and other parties but is “very confident” the state will successfully defend the new bill.

More Social Media Bans 

Texas

Proposed last December by a North Texas representative, H.B. 896 would prevent all Texans under the age of 18 from using social media, period. If passed, social media giants would be charged with verifying the age of account holders by uploading their driver’s licenses. 

California

Currently being decided in the California session, S.B.l 287 targets specific app designs and functions that influence minors to harm themselves and others. Ads or content targeted to children that leads to eating disorders, suicide or the purchase of fentanyl and illegal firearms, would result in a $250,000 fine for companies like TikTok and Meta. 

Connecticut

Lawmakers in Connecticut are once again trying to pass HB 5025, originally introduced in 2022, which would require parental consent for minors under 16 to sign up for media accounts.

Ohio

In Ohio, the Social Media Parental Notification Act would require social media companies to create their own method in which parents would give children under 16 consent to sign up. This could include written consent forms, toll-free phone calls, video conferences with social media personnel, or checking government-issued identification. 

Arkansas

Similar to Utah’s law, Arkansas lawmakers have introduced the Social Media Safety Act, which would ban all users under 18 from using social media unless expressly authorized by a parent.

Louisiana
Under a proposed Louisiana law, minors 16 and under would have to secure consent from parents to access apps like TikTok and Instagram. The bill also calls for media companies to utilize ‘black-out’ periods from 10:30 p.m. to 6:30 a.m. For parents who believe their child was harmed by certain social media functions, the bill provides a pathway to sue companies.

New Jersey

New Jersey lawmakers are cracking down on media giants whose apps utilize ‘habit-forming features’ such as auto-scroll, notifications and rewards for time spent on the app. Bill A5069 prohibits companies from enabling features for users of all ages, or face up to $250,000 in fines. 


From the beginning, Utah women and families have been at the forefront of sharing their personal lives online. Learn why so many influencers and bloggers are from Utah.

See more stories like this and all of our culture and community coverage. And while you’re here, why not subscribe and get six annual issues of Salt Lake magazine’s curated guide to the best of life in Utah. 

Avrey Evans
Avrey Evanshttps://www.saltlakemagazine.com/
Avrey Evans is the Digital and the Nightlife Editor of Salt Lake Magazine. She has been writing for city publications for six years and enjoys covering the faces and places of our salty city, especially when a boozy libation is concerned.

Similar Articles

Most Popular