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Social Media Consent: Ohio’s Proposed Law Seeks to Mitigate Negative Social Media Impacts on Kids

Governor Mike Dewine’s 2023-2024 executive budget includes a proposal to require certain online companies to obtain verified parental consent before permitting kids ages 16 and under to use their platforms.  Social Media Parental Notification Act is championed by Lt. Governor John Husted who seeks to give parents more control over their children’s social media usage.

According to the proposal, this law would require social media and online gaming companies to:

  1. Create a method to determine whether the user is a child under the age of 16
  2. Obtain verifiable parental or legal guardian consent
  3. Send written confirmation of the consent to the parent or legal guardian

The proposed law reads, “If a parent or legal guardian fails or refuses to consent to the terms of service, the company must deny access or use of the online website, online service, online product, or online feature by the child.” Similar bills have been proposed by lawmakers in Connecticut and Utah.

A Good Start, But Is It Enough?

Some worry that these laws will pose logistical challenges, be difficult to enforce, and fairly easy for children to subvert. Melissa Whitson, a professor of psychology and a licensed psychologist at the University of New Haven reflected, “Everybody needs parental consent and kids are smart, they might find a way around that, so I’m not sure how they’ll enforce that.”

However, proponents believe that these laws are an important next step in protecting children from the harmful effects of social media. Lt. Governor John Husted argues, “I think there probably needs to be more than just what we’re talking about. But we got to open that conversation. We’ve got to force these companies to the table. They’re making money off of our kids. They’re collecting data on them. They’re putting harmful addictive algorithms on there and not doing anything in return to protect them. They need to step up and be responsible.”

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