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California bill targeting social media addiction in teens passes State Senate

Meta announces new restrictions for teenagers on Instagram and Facebook
Meta announces new restrictions for teenagers on Instagram and Facebook 04:27

SACRAMENTO – In a bipartisan vote, the California State Senate approved a bill from a Bay Area lawmaker aimed at targeting social media addiction among children and teens.

On Monday night, senators approved Senate Bill 976 by State Sen. Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley) on a 35-2 vote. The bill now goes onto the Assembly for consideration.

"Studies show that once a young person has a social media addiction, they experience higher rates of depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem. But social media companies have been unwilling to voluntarily change their practices," Skinner said in a statement. "With SB 976, the state Senate has sent a clear message: When social media companies won't act, it's our responsibility to protect our children."

Skinner's office cited figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that noted children spend six to 14 hours per day in front of a screen, much of it on social media. A review published in the Journal of Behavioral Sciences linked social media addition among youth to negative health effects, including higher rates of depression, anxiety, lack of sleep and low self-esteem.

Under the bill, which is also known as the "Protecting our Kids From Social Media Addiction Act," platforms would be prohibited from sending an "addictive" social media feed to a minor without consent from a parent or guardian.

Social media apps would also be prohibited from sending notifications to minors between 8 a.m. and 3 p.m. during the school year (defined in the legislation as weekdays between September and May) and between midnight and 6 a.m. throughout the year.

The bill also would mandate platforms from setting a default time limit of one hour that can be adjusted by parents and that the default setting for a minor's account be "private."

SB976 has multiple sponsors, including California Attorney General Rob Bonta, Public Health Advocates and the Association of California School Administrators. The bill is also being supported by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

In a separate statement, Bonta said the bill "puts control back in the hands of parents and children."

"Our children and teens are experiencing a public health crisis, caused by social media companies in their thirst for profits. In California, we take mental health seriously, we take children's online safety seriously - and we know that we don't have a minute to waste to protect our kids. In California, we move fast and fix things," the attorney general went on to say.

Bonta is among 33 attorneys general that have joined in a lawsuit against Facebook and Instagram parent company Meta alleging the social media platforms kept teenagers engaged for as long as possible to gather personal data and sell it to advertisers.

If approved, SB976 would be the first such law in the nation aimed at addressing youth social media addiction. One other state, New York, has introduced similar legislation.

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