GOP lawmaker wants to drastically limit minors' access to social media, fine companies that don't impose restrictions

NOW: GOP lawmaker wants to drastically limit minors’ access to social media, fine companies that don’t impose restrictions

MADISON, Wis. (CBS 58) -- There's a new push in Wisconsin to drastically limit minors' access to social media.

State Rep. David Steffen (R-Green Bay) said he's drafting legislation to address parents and experts concerns over social media's impact on children after several studies have shown apps such as TikTok, Instagram and Facebook can lead to low self-esteem, anxiety and depression.

Under his bill, anticipated to be released this week, curfews would be imposed to prohibit anyone younger than 18 from using social media between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m., and require parental consent to create an account.

"Certainly, were trying to ensure that parents at least have a shot at protecting their kids," Steffen said.

The proposal would also restrict the type of advertising on a minors account and limit direct messages from users that are not pre-approved by the account holder, giving parents more access to their child's account.

If a social media company fails to comply, they could face a $100 fine per day from the state, leaving the enforcement aspect of the bill on the companies themselves, Steffen said.

"There's roughly 800,000 children in Wisconsin impacted by this…so, if a social media company fails to have the sleep mode, the curfew on, that's $8,000 a day," said Steffen. "If they fail to have the age certification in place, that's also $8,000 in fines per day."

It's called the Social Media Protection for Minors Act which is modeled after a Utah law that imposes regulations on minor's social media accounts. Republican Gov. Spencer Cox signed the bill into law last month which is already facing legal challenges before it goes into effect next year.

Michael Zimmer, Director of Center for Data, Ethics & Society at Marquette University, said these types of strict restrictions on social media companies are likely to face privacy and enforcement concerns.

"It would be really hard to enforce this to create something that the government would step in and basically take control out of parents hands in terms of what your kids have access to," Zimmer said.

Zimmer added these proposals are tricky because they target major companies that are likely to object to these standards. He also noted that it's unclear how they would be enforced since the federal Children's Online Privacy Protection Act already prohibits companies from collecting data on children under the age of 13 without parental consent.

Many social media companies also prohibit minors younger than 13 from creating an account, but Zimmer said most children know how to get around those restrictions.

"I think there will be some challenges in terms of whether or not this is overreaching or interfering with what these companies in how they chose to run their operations," said Zimmer. "Perhaps they have things in place to make these spaces safer for younger users and that's what the government should be focused on instead of outright bans or limitations on minors."

Steffen said he wants to collaborate with the Wisconsin Department of Justice on his proposal and welcomes input from Gov. Tony Evers once he introduces the language of the bill.

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