Florida gets positively “antisocial” about media and minors

As wildly out of touch with reality, rights, logic, compassion and more as Florida lawmaking can be, it might shock you that when Florida passed a law to ban minors from social media last week, it wasn’t the first state to do so.

Still, if it survives legal challenges, it will be one of the most restrictive on the books, banning anyone under 14 from social media platforms and requiring that 14- and 15-year-olds get permission from their parents first.

Now, before I lay into the Florida legislature and Gov. Ron DeSantis about this, let’s clear the air about something: I don’t advocate letting kids run rampant through social media circles. My daughter was subject to some very specific rules about what she was allowed to look at in terms of social media and at what age before adulthood she could have her own accounts—and on what platforms she would be allowed.

This is as it should be. My child; my rules. And there should be rules and limits.

Also, let me be clear that DeSantis did, at least, in some small semblance of reason, veto an earlier bill passed by the legislature that would have banned everyone under 16 from social media entirely—period.

Regardless, though, it’s still ridiculous.

First of all, if someone has a kid with social media accounts and they move to Florida, you’re telling me the kid has to ditch those accounts? How is that reasonable? Sorry, kid, you were on social media before but now you’re off. And what if someone is vacationing with their kids in Florida? Are they in violation of state law if the kids check Instagram or TikTok?

It feels like suddenly setting your state’s driving age a year or two higher and then not accepting out-of-state driver’s licenses for drivers who are “too young.” I’m pretty sure that would be a violation of interstate commerce laws or something, and frankly, that should be at least one reason for kicking this Florida legislation and any similar legislation to the curb.

Because the internet in general—and social media as part of it—is national. It’s global. It is communication and connection.

For those of us Gen X’ers and Millennials who remember phones attached to the walls by cords, try to imagine laws that would have banned us from using the phone because we weren’t “old enough.”

Young people today, including young adults, often don’t use phones much or at all. They don’t use email a lot of times. They are using social media to communicate. While I think parents need access to better controls sometimes and need to lay down ground rules, cutting young people off from communication is not the way. Not at all.

This is yet another very oppressive and borderline totalitarian move to control people’s ability to seek information, share information, and communicate with each other. It’s not the government’s place.

It’s also insulting that this is a state that rips books out of libraries because they feature stories about people of color, or that suggest that LGBTQ+ people have the right to exist without being assaulted, or that present too many truths about how history really played out—rather than the whitewashed versions that teach stupid and incorrect shit like Lincoln never lied and Washington had wooden teeth (actually, his dentures were made from the teeth of his slaves) and that slaves were just migrant workers from Africa.

This book-banning state that doesn’t care what parents think about books, and I guarantee you most parents would like their children to read and have knowledge…this state that takes the decision out of parents’ hands regarding what their kids can access…now wants into the homes of parents and kids to tell them whether they can be on social media.

This isn’t about protecting children. It’s about controlling children’s access to the world and also controlling their parents by limiting how much autonomy they have to raise and guide those children. Yes, there are dangerous people on the internet and there are things children probably ought not to see. But that’s true of the whole world around those children, and what we need are better controls for parents online, better ways to block and punish harmful people online, and things like that. Tools that give us control and laws that go after the underlying problems rather than the media itself. But DeSantis and the Republicans in general don’t want us to have any control. They want us to obey. Today it’s minors and social media. Tomorrow it will be telling adults that they also can’t access certain websites and platforms they once enjoyed. I guarantee. And even if you think I’m being paranoid, do you really want to take the chance? Have you not noticed how much conservatives have been taking away? Don’t be distracted; don’t be fooled. We’ve got to stop this madness everywhere we can or soon enough we won’t even be able to communicate with each other about how to resist government overreach. We’ll be isolated and controlled. For good.

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