Get all your news in one place.
100’s of premium titles.
One app.
Start reading
The Guardian - US
The Guardian - US
Kari Paul and agencies

New York signs parental control of ‘addictive’ social media feeds into law

woman wearing light blue suit speaks at podium in front of microphone with people standing behind her
New York’s governor, Kathy Hochul, speaks before signing the 'Safe for Kids Act' bill at the United Federation of Teachers Manhattan borough office in New York City, on 20 June 2024. Photograph: Sarah Yenesel/EPA

New York’s governor, Kathy Hochul, signed two bills into law on Thursday meant to mitigate negative impacts of social media on children, the latest action to address what critics say is a growing youth mental health crisis.

The first bill will require that parents be able to stop their children from seeing posts suggested by a social network’s algorithm, a move to limit feeds Hochul argues are addictive. The second will put additional limitations on the collection, use, sharing and selling of personal data of anyone under the age of 18.

“We can protect our kids. We can tell the companies that you are not allowed to do this, you don’t have a right to do this, that parents should have say over their children’s lives and their health, not you,” Hochul said at a bill-signing ceremony in Manhattan.

Under the first bill, the Stop Addictive Feeds Exploitation (Safe) for Kids Act, apps like TikTok and Instagram would be limited for people under the age of 18 to posts from accounts they follow, rather than content recommended by the app. It would also block platforms from sending minors notifications on suggested posts between midnight and 6am.

Both provisions could be turned off if a minor gets what the bill defines as “verifiable parental consent”.

Thursday’s signing is just the first step in what is expected to be a lengthy process of rule-making, as the laws do not take effect immediately and social media companies are expected to challenge the new legislation.

The New York state attorney general, Letitia James, is now tasked with crafting rules to determine mechanisms for verifying a user’s age and parental consent. After the rules are finalized, social media companies will have 180 days to implement changes to comply with the regulation.

“Addictive feeds are getting our kids hooked on social media and hurting their mental health, and families are counting on us to help address this crisis,” James said at the ceremony. “The legislation signed by Governor Hochul today will make New York the national leader in addressing the youth mental health crisis and an example for other states to follow.”

Social media companies and free speech advocates have pushed back against such legislation, with NetChoice – a tech industry trade group that includes Twitter/X and Meta – criticizing the New York laws as unconstitutional.

“This is an assault on free speech and the open internet by the state of New York,” Carl Szabo, vice-president and general counsel of NetChoice, said in a statement. “New York has created a way for the government to track what sites people visit and their online activity by forcing websites to censor all content unless visitors provide an ID to verify their age.”

New York’s new laws come after California’s governor, Gavin Newsom, announced plans to work with his state’s legislature on a bill to restrict smartphone usage for students during the school day, though he didn’t provide exact details on what the proposal would include. Newsom in 2019 signed a bill allowing school districts to limit or ban smartphones on campuses.

A similar measure proposed in South Carolina this month would ban students from using cellphones during the school day across all public schools in the state. Most schools in the United Kingdom prohibit the use of smartphones during school hours.

Although there hasn’t been broad legislation on the subject at the federal level, pressure from Washington is mounting. This week the US surgeon general called on Congress to put warning labels on social media platforms similar to those on cigarette packaging, citing mental health dangers for children using the sites.

Sign up to read this article
Read news from 100’s of titles, curated specifically for you.
Already a member? Sign in here
Related Stories
Top stories on inkl right now
One subscription that gives you access to news from hundreds of sites
Already a member? Sign in here
Our Picks
Fourteen days free
Download the app
One app. One membership.
100+ trusted global sources.