Watch CBS News

Bill banning social media for kids under 16 in Florida heads to Gov. DeSantis' desk

Bill banning social media for kids under 16 in Florida heads to Gov. DeSantis' desk
Bill banning social media for kids under 16 in Florida heads to Gov. DeSantis' desk 02:46

MIAMI -  A Florida bill banning social media use for minors heads to Governor Ron DeSantis' desk. It would be among the nation's most restrictive for kids under 16. 

On Thursday night, at a town hall held at Miami Killian Senior High, a family discussed the dangers of social media. 

Orlando Valdes shared his family's journey through a social media nightmare as a learning experience for parents and kids listening in the crowd.  His son, back in 2019, was arrested and kicked out of school for a single social media post. 

"The first thing you want to do is grab your kid and hug him," Kim Valdes, the mother of the then-teen, said while speaking to the audience.

She remembers a photograph shown to the audience and the long embrace on her son's arrest day. 

She and her husband, Orlando, relived a painful experience.  They did so, speaking about the dangers and consequences of following social media trends during the town hall.

"We do a great job of putting guardrails on roads for a reason because we know the turn that's coming up ahead," said Orlando Valdes.  "Kids don't realize the turns that are coming up ahead in the information superhighway."

Back in 2019, their then-16-year-old son Austin made a post on TikTok.  A video replayed at the town hall.  The former Columbus High student posted a video with the sound of gunfire.  He then made shooting motions towards the name of each school.  The school's name then disappears from the screen.

"I was embarrassed," recalled Orlando Valdes.  "I was appalled for the representation of the school that we prayed for and the community of kids."

His dad recalled within 24 hours of the post; his son was arrested, kicked out of school, and interrogated by Homeland Security.  Criminal charges were eventually dropped.  

"I told him G-D would not let us down," said Valdes.  "G-D was going to be there with us regardless of what happened.  I remember saying that to him while I was in the interrogation room."

In the days and years that followed, Valdes watched his son transform and positively inspire other children.

"Now he's able to speak to different kids and help them see how childish it is to chase likes," added Valdes.

After going through what he did with his son, Valdes supports the legislature's effort in Tallahassee to ban kids under 16 from social media platforms. 

"Kids should not be posting on the internet," added Valdes.  "That's where they can get into the most trouble.  We had to live that first hand."

At a press conference Thursday, the Governor did not commit to signing the bill into law, adding that parents need to play a role.

"We can't say that 100% of the uses are bad because they're not," said DeSantis.  "I don't think it's there yet, but I hope we can get  there in a way that answers parents' concerns."

As for Austin, Valdes says he is now a photographer, taking pictures of athletes competing between the lines while sharing positivity on social media. 

Valdes hopes he helped empower parents and their kids to discuss social media openly with one another.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.