NY approves legislation to combat addictive social media targeting kids

Posted 7 June 2024 at 6:48 pm

Press Release, Gov. Kathy Hochul’s Office

ALBANY – Governor Kathy Hochul today celebrated the legislative passage of two nation-leading bills to protect kids online. The Stop Addictive Feeds Exploitation (SAFE) for Kids Act will restrict a child’s access to addictive feeds on social media, and the New York Child Data Protection Act will keep children’s personal data safe.

“New York is leading the nation to protect our kids from addictive social media feeds and shield their personal data from predatory companies,” Governor Hochul said. “Together, we’ve taken a historic step forward in our efforts to address the youth mental health crisis and create a safer digital environment for young people.”

The SAFE for Kids Act will require social media companies to restrict addictive feeds on their platforms for users under 18. Unless parental consent is granted, users under 18 will not receive addictive feeds.

Users may still search for specific topics of interest. It will also prohibit social media platforms from sending notifications regarding addictive feeds to minors from 12 a.m. to 6 a.m. without parental consent. The legislation will authorize the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) to bring an action to enjoin violations of the new law as well as seek civil penalties of up to $5,000 per violation, among other remedies.

And finally, it calls for the establishment of acceptable age verification and parent consent methods, to be determined by the OAG as part of a rulemaking process once the legislation is enacted.

The New York Child Data Protection Act will prohibit online sites from collecting, using, sharing or selling personal data of anyone under the age of 18, unless they receive informed consent or unless doing so is strictly necessary for the purpose of the website. It also authorizes the OAG to enforce the law and enjoin and seek damages or civil penalties of up to $5,000 per violation.

New York State Attorney General Letitia James said, “Our children are enduring a mental health crisis, and social media is fueling the fire and profiting from the epidemic. The legislation my team worked on and supported along with bill sponsors Senator (Andrew) Gounardes and Assemblymember (Nily) Rozic will help address the addictive features that have made social media so insidious and anxiety-producing. I applaud Governor Hochul, Senate Majority Leader Stewart-Cousins, Assembly Speaker Heastie, and the legislative majorities for supporting this legislation and for agreeing that protecting children’s mental health must be a top priority. New York state is once again leading the nation, and I hope other states will follow suit and pass legislation to protect children and put their mental health above big tech companies’ profits.”

Editor’s Note: The New York State United Teachers also issued this statement from NYSUT President Melinda Person:

“Educators see the harmful effects of social media on our kids every day, and this legislation is a tremendous first step toward ensuring these influences remain in their proper places. We are grateful to the Legislature, the Attorney General and the governor for championing the mental health of our students as they navigate our rapidly changing world online.

“These platforms have potential to enhance teaching, learning and connectivity in our classrooms, but should never risk our children’s health or safety. New York can lead the nation in creating protections for the mental and physical wellness of the future generation, and this is just the beginning.”

“In September, NYSUT will convene educators, mental health providers, union leaders, school district leaders, parents, elected officials and advocates for Disconnected, a conference for sharing strategies and solutions to the impact of cell phones, social media and technology on children, schools and learning.”