Legislators in New Jersey are taking steps to protect minors who use social media. A5750, which is being heard in the Assembly Health Committee on Monday, December 11th at 10am, would require social media companies to verify the age of new and existing account holders, and if the person is a minor, the company must obtain permission from their parent or guardian. The bill is sponsored by Assemblyman Herb Conaway and Assemblywoman Ellen Park. (There’s also a Senate version of the bill, S4215, sponsored by Senator Joseph Vitale, which isn’t scheduled for a hearing yet.)
According to current requirements in the bill, in order for the social media company to obtain consent, the parent or guardian must provide a government issued ID and credit card information to the social media company, consenting to a fee of “not more than 35 cents to be charged to the card provided.” Privacy concerns related to that provision alone may discourage parents in New Jersey from allowing their children to use social media, even though the bill does prohibit the social media company from collecting or using personal information obtained through the consent approval process.
The bill also instructs the social media company to prohibit adults from direct messaging accounts that have been identified as belonging to a minor. The Division of Consumer Affairs will monitor complaints and issue civil penalties to the social media companies that are found to be in violation.
That provision alone may end up being a deal-breaker, especially for sites like TikTok, which are rumored to have ties to the Chinese government.