Ohio proposal would require parental permission for social media

It is one of several states seeking to address concerns about potential harms to teenagers.
Republican Ohio Lt. Gov. Jon Husted, right, speaks as his wife, Tina, stands next to him during an election night watch party Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2022, in Columbus, Ohio. (AP Photo/Jay LaPrete)

A proposal being pushed by Lt. Gov. Jon Husted (R) would require Ohio residents under 16 years old to get a parent or guardian’s permission to have a social media account.

The Social Media Parental Notification Act is one of several examples of states this year eyeing new restrictions on social media companies to address concerns about harms to children. They coincide with data released Monday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that found a record level of sadness among teenage girls across the country.

The Ohio proposal, which was included in Gov. Mike DeWine’s (R) executive budget, would mandate that social media companies implement an age-verification process and obtain “verifiable parental or legal guardian consent” before granting an account to a teen younger than 16. A third step in the process would require companies to send parents written confirmation of their consent – as an extra safeguard.

The rules would apply to sites such as Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, TikTok and Snapchat, as well as to online gaming sites.

“The verdict is in on this: Social media is addictive, it is harmful to brain development, creates a lot of social disorders and has been really harmful to our children in many ways,” Husted told the USA TODAY Network Ohio Bureau. “It’s pretty universally accepted that this is not good for kids,

The tech industry has pushed back on age-verification requirements, calling them invasive. In a statement, Carl Szabo, vice president and general counsel of NetChoice, an industry trade group, said the proposed Ohio law would violate free speech and put personal information “in danger.”

“Being a parent is hard. It always has been. But the answer is not big government takeovers,” Szabo said. “The better approach is to follow efforts in Virginia, Indiana, and Florida to mandate social media education as part of our school’s curriculum. Much in the way we teach math and science, we must teach our teens how to safely and securely navigate the internet.”

Republican lawmakers in Utah proposed this year to ban those under 16 from having a social media account and require parental permission for those 16 to 18. But those provisions were stripped out of a bill that passed the Utah House last week.

Under the revised measure, social media companies would be prohibited from employing addictive design features and parents could sue for alleged harms to their children.

A bill introduced in Connecticut would also require users 16 and younger to get parental permission before opening a social media account. A bill in Texas would go further, implementing a total ban on anyone under 18 having access to social media platforms.