On Monday, California State Sen. Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley) introduced a bill she says will “protect children from the dangers associated with social media addiction.”
As noted in an official press release from Sen. Skinner, this would be the country’s first law of its kind.
The bill would ban social media from using “addictive algorithms” for users under 18 without parental consent. It would also block social media notifications from being sent to minors during school hours and overnight without parental consent.
California Attorney General Rob Bonta endorsed the bill and discussed it with Sen. Skinner at a press conference on Tuesday.
“SB 976 is landmark legislation that I am proudly sponsoring to better protect our children online,” said Attorney General Bonta.
According to Skinner’s press release, concrete changes to social media engagement for minors enacted by this bill would include chronological timelines, a one-hour social time limit, and a default private account setting. Parents can consent to their children having standard social media settings.
Skinner said social media companies deliberately design apps to make them addicting, with adverse effects on children’s mental health.
“Countless studies show that once a young person has a social media addiction, they experience higher rates of depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem,” said Sen. Skinner.
Pointing to the problem’s urgency, Skinner mentioned that the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing with “five big tech CEOs” concerning their “failure to protect children online.”
Skinner also mentioned that her bill comes after a lawsuit filed by California and 32 other states against Meta, alleging that the company uses “deceptive features” that cause children to to become addicted to their social media platforms quickly.
The Association of California School Administrators (ACSA) also supports the bill.
“ACSA supports healthy learning environments for California’s children who, more than ever, need positive affirming influences that support their social/emotional and academic well-being,” said ACSA Executive Director Edgar Zazueta.
Sen. Scott Wilk (R- Santa Clarita) was the lone Republican who co-authored the bill with several other Democrats.
Sen. Wilk said, “This bill puts parents back in the driver’s seat. It’s time to get out of the wild, wild west and put guardrails in place to prevent social media companies from bombarding our kids with highly addictive and dangerous content.”
The bill will give the California Attorney General the authority to make sure social media companies comply with the regulations passed in this bill.