Wisconsin Republican Representative David Steffen has introduced a bill requiring social media platforms to verify the age of their users from Wisconsin and acquire parental permission for children to open accounts. The bill also prohibits children under the age of 18 from operating their accounts between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m., but parents could choose to opt out of all regulations for their child. Concerned about the impact of social media on young people’s development, more than half of the states have banned the use of the video-sharing app TikTok on government-owned devices.
Steffen made an announcement last month that he would suggest more precautions for all social media platforms. He worries that the health and safety of children has been compromised by the simple electronic access that social media firms, predators, and advertising have to them. Steffen states that it is the job of parents and guardians to keep their kids safe, but the current online environment has made this nearly impossible.
The proposed bill mandates that social media platforms have 21 days to verify the age of Wisconsin residents with accounts created since 2019 and require permission from a parent or guardian to allow children to access existing accounts or create new ones. The bill also mandates restrictions on data sharing and advertising directed at minors across social media platforms. Parents would have access to their child’s account. Sites that break the law could be hit with a daily fine of $100 per user account.
Steffen modeled the law after a similar one passed by Utah lawmakers in March. There have been concerns about whether and how the law will be enforced in Utah, and it is likely to face legal challenges. Similar to the Utah law, Arkansas lawmakers have passed a bill that would put the enforceability of age restrictions on children’s social media use to the test.
Democratic US Senator Tammy Baldwin previously proposed a bipartisan bill to regulate social media platforms, while Republican US Representative Mike Gallagher has criticized TikTok and called for tighter regulation. The bill requires approval from both chambers of the Republican-controlled Legislature to pass and then requires Governor Tony Evers’ signature. His spokesperson, Britt Cudaback, did not respond to a request for comment.