New California SB 976 Law Aims to Protect Children From Social Media Addiction

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How Kids Consume Social Media/Online Addiction the Targets of New California SB 976 Law

How Kids Consume Social Media/Online Addiction the Targets of New California SB 976 Law

Feb 5, 2024

California lawmakers have released a bill aimed at protecting children from social media addiction. State Senator Nancy Skinner, who introduced the legislation, held a press conference with Attorney General Rob Bonta in Oakland last week.

Hailed as a landmark law, California State Bill 976 (SB 976) would prohibit social media websites from sending users under 18 “addictive” material without the consent of a parent or guardian. If SB 976 passes, California would join only New York among states to have implemented similar legislation targeted at protecting kids from the dangers of social media. (New York Governor Kathy Hochul proposed the “Stop Addictive Feeds Exploitation (SAFE) for Kids Act” in October 2023).

California SB 976 – also known as “Protecting Our Kids from Social Media Addiction” – would establish certain safeguards for minors who access apps like TikTok and Instagram:

  • Online platforms would be barred from sending an addictive social media feed to a minor without the consent of the youth’s parent or guardian.
  • All social media platforms would be barred from sending notifications to minors during overnight hours and during the school day without the consent of a parent or guardian.

“Social media companies have designed their platforms to addict users, especially our kids. Countless studies show that once a young person has a social media addiction, they experience higher rates of depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem,” California Senator Skinner said last week in a statement. “We’ve waited long enough for social media companies to act. SB 976 is needed now to establish sensible guardrails so parents can protect their kids from these preventable harms.”

The bill was co-authored by a bipartisan group of state senators:

  • Ben Allen
  • Angelique Ashby
  • María Elena Durazo
  • Susan Rubio
  • Scott Wilk

The introduction of California SB 976 came just days before the U.S. Senate held a bipartisan hearing which included direct questioning towards the CEOS from Big Tech’s five major companies (Meta, TikTok, Discord, X, and Snap). Various elected officials called into question the failure of the major CEOs to protect children online.

“SB 976 is landmark legislation that I am proudly sponsoring to better protect our children online,” Attorney General Bonta said in a statement. “Social media companies are employing harmful platform features while misleading young users, their families, and the public about the addictive quality of those features. Enough is enough. It is everyone’s responsibility to protect our children.

The Association of California School Administrators (ACSA) also sponsored SB 976.

ACSA supports healthy learning environments for California’s children who, more than ever, need positive affirming influences that support their social/emotional and academic well-being,” said ACSA Executive Director Edgar Zazueta. “Given all of the challenges facing today’s students both on and off school campuses, we believe tools to help enhance focus and discourage disruption are in the best interest of young learners and educators alike.”

Together with 32 other states, California sued Meta (parent company of Facebook and Instagram) in October 2023 alleging the company designed Instagram and Facebook specifically to addict young users and repeatedly misled the public about the substantial dangers of its social media platforms, an Associated Press report confirmed.

Research indicates that kids can be especially vulnerable to “psychologically manipulative algorithms” intended to keep users engaged with social media for as long as possible – often compulsively, a report from Fox KTVU said. Senator Skinner’s office added that “social media companies have purposely designed their platforms to addict users to increase profits.”

Addiction to social media can have a number of adverse consequences for America’s kids. Research indicates that social media addiction can be linked to higher rates of:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Lack of sleep
  • Low self-esteem
  • Trouble concentrating

Children in the United States spend between six to 14 hours per day in front of a screen, with much of that time viewing social media content, a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed.

Similar California Law Passed in 2023 to Protect Kids from Online Sexual Abuse Material

In October, California Assembly Bill 1394 (AB 1394) was signed into law. The legislation is meant to hold social media platforms liable for failing to combat child sexual abuse material (CSAM) and allowing child sex trafficking.

Under AB 1394, social media platforms such as TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, and Snap could be held liable through civil litigation for “knowingly facilitating, aiding, or abetting commercial sexual exploitation.”

If a social media platform is found liable for involvement related to online child exploitation, damages awards between $1 million and $4 million for each infraction could be assessed.

The new law is expected to take effect in January 2025.

Can California Parents Sue for Online Child Sex Abuse Material?

Can California Parents Sue for Online Child Sex Abuse Material?

Victims of online child sexual abuse material may be able to pursue legal remedies by filing a claim in California civil court. Financial compensation for various types of damages may be awarded when liability is found:

  • Emotional trauma
  • Pain and suffering
  • Counseling or therapy expenses
  • Medical expenses
  • Diminished quality of life
  • Punitive damages

Our Sexual Assault Justice Experts are here to help survivors secure justice. Contact our top-rated attorneys online or by phone for a free consultation today.

Contact Dordulian Law Group’s (DLG) experienced Glendale, California, child sex abuse attorneys today by calling 866-GO-SEE-SAM for a free consultation. We’re standing by 24/7 to answer any questions you have and are here to help you and your family take the first step towards securing justice.

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