TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — The Florida Legislature passed a social media ban for minors on Thursday despite Gov. Ron DeSantis expressing concerns about the bill.

What You Need To Know

  • The bill would limit social media to Floridians 16 and older

  •  It would also require age verification to access social media and adult sites

  •  Critics say the bill is unconstitutional and even Gov. Ron DeSantis expressed concerns about the legislation

The bill (House Bill 1) would limit social media to Floridians 16 and older. It would also require age verification to access social media sites and adult web pages. 

Speaking in Orlando on Thursday morning, DeSantis expressed concern. He, among others, fears the bill is unconstitutional, and he also opposed the proposal's lack of a parental override. 

"I'm a critic of social media, but I have to look at this from a parent's perspective," DeSantis told reporters. "We're working through this. I don't think it's there yet."

By Thursday's end, though, the House and Senate approved the legislation. The proposal, which ranks among the strictest in the nation, would require platforms to boot unverified accounts they believe belong to minors.

Other states have considered similar legislation, but most have not proposed a total ban. In Arkansas, a federal judge blocked enforcement of a law in August that required parental consent for minors to create new social media accounts.

The bill targets any social media site that tracks user activity, allows children to upload material and interact with others, and uses addictive features designed to cause excessive or compulsive use. Supporters point to rising suicide rates among children, cyberbullying and predators using social media to prey on kids.

"These companies know what they are doing is wrong," said Republican State Rep. Tyler Sirios, the bill sponsor. "They have not acted. We will."

The ban's passage is bitter sweet for some critics. Many agree social media is harming Florida's youth, but they take issue with the bill's approach.

"We must do something, "said St. Petersburg Democratic Sen. Darryl Rouson, who suggested the bill is imperfect. "Drastic times call for drastic measures."

Among other descriptors, some Democratic lawmakers call the bill hypocritical. For years, Florida Republicans championed themselves as parental rights advocates, and in 2022, even passed a controversial education reform bill called "Parental Rights in Education." 

Democratic lawmakers took time Thursday to spotlight the juxtaposition.

"It is not the legislature's job to tell the parents how to parent," said Miami Gardens Democratic State Sen. Shev Jones. 

The House passed the measure Thursday evening nearly unanimously. The Senate, however, advanced it with a narrower 23 to 14 vote. 

The bill has been a priority of House Speaker Paul Renner. Surrounded by fellow supporters, Renner defended the bill outside the House chamber. 

"If you believe these addictive features and personalized algorithms are vials of poison on the table, you don't let a parent consent," he told reporters before the vote.

After the legislation's passage, Renner said it would go a long way toward protecting children online.

"This bill protects children in a dramatic way," he said. "There is no Republican children or Democrat children, and we owe it to all children to protect them. And today members, by your vote, you did just that."

Supporters in Florida hope that if the bill becomes law, it would withstand legal challenges because it would ban social media formats based on addictive features such as notification alerts and auto-play videos, rather than the content on their sites.

But opponents say it blatantly violates the First Amendment and that it should be left to parents, not the government, to monitor children’s social media use.

“This isn’t 1850," said Democratic state Sen. Jason Pizzo. "While parents show up at school board meetings to ban books, their kids are on their iPads looking at really bad stuff."

Some parents also have mixed feelings.

Central Florida mother Angela Perry said she understands the rationale behind the bill, and noted that she and her husband didn’t let their daughter onto any major platforms until she turned 15. But Perry said she believes it should be up to every parent to make that decision based on the maturity of their children.

“Whatever happened to parental rights?” Perry asked. “You are already selecting books my child can read at school. That is fine to a certain extent. But now you are also moving into their private life as well. It’s becoming intrusive.”

The bill's passage puts DeSantis on the clock. The governor must either sign or veto the bill before the legislative session ends on March 8.

If DeSantis takes no action, the bill becomes law.