In a recent bill passed in the western state of the US- teens’ lives are about to change.

For the first time in US history, In Utah State, teens under 18 will need parental consent to use social media platforms such as Instagram and TikTok. In a recent bill passed on 23rd March, the governor of Utah, Spencer Cox, signed a bill restricting minor teens from using social media without the prior consent of their parents. The bill will come into effect in March 2024.

In addition to parental consent, the bill will prohibit minor teens from accessing social media at night. 

The bill is sanctioned in light of rising youth addiction to social media, cyber crimes, and threats of data theft to enhance data security. In addition, the bill pressurizes social media firms such as Meta and TikTok to introduce the “confirm age” feature.

Similar attempts were made in Australia back in 2021. However, in counteraction, the bill is seen as a violation of human rights. The bill is also becoming a source of worry among young teens.

In this case study, we will understand the need for parental consent and censoring on the use of social media for minor teens.


With the launch of the first social networking site- Bolt and Six Degrees, in 1997, the concept of Social media came into existence. The platform was designed for 15-to-20-year-olds to voice mail. Email, message board, and share instant messaging. 

At that time, no one would have imagined the depth of relationships social media would build over the years. 

Social media platforms have amassed massive popularity in just twenty years, gaining 5.26 billion users worldwide. With more than half of the global population accessing social media, 20 to 29-year-olds are the most prominent consumers.

 However, major studies around social media users only cover adult teens, i.e. above 18, in some cases, 16. 

But, a major chunk of the digital population is minor, as young as 8 to 10 years old. Moreover, limited data is available encircling minors. Hence, the relationships between social media with minors are still, at large, unknown. 

Understanding the relationship between social media and young teens:

Social media is a source of adrenaline for minors and adults alike. Besides being the prime source of modern entertainment, social media is the most sorted after means of communication. 

Video calls have replaced face-to-face interactions, and instant messages have taken the spot of letters. Today social media is nothing short of a trusted ally. Today, a teenager is confined more to virtual friends than building real-time relationships with friends and family.

The role of Parents in social media access:

With emerging technological advancements, parents are responsible for the digital well-being of their kids. Gone are the days when parenting was all about physical and mental protection. 

 Today, parents are also the gatekeeper for their children’s online whereabouts. 

But what is the need for parental control for minors on social media?

The need for parental control on social media:

Content censoring:

Social media is not a mere pool; it is a vast ocean of free data- that anyone can access. 

And since the internet lacks a filter, any content can be accessed by anyone, regardless of age.

You would be shocked to know that 99% of internet users are aged sixteen to twenty-nine. The statistics, however, neglect users below the age of sixteen, but multiple surveys showed that ninety percent of teens aged 13-17 had used social media accounts, among which fifty-one percent reported using social media daily.

Hence, to protect minor teens from accessing potentially harmful content such as pornography, violence, and politically biased content, parental control is pivotal.

Social media addiction among minors:

The survey findings from 2018 also revealed that, on average, a teen spends a whooping nine hours on the internet, excluding homework hours. Social media is entertaining and addicting. Also, most teens are active on social media, so a majority join amid fear of missing out, also called FOMO. 

Hence, introducing barriers to the use of social media is necessary.

Growing differences between real and reel life:

Today, people live dual lives in reality and on social media. The treacherous issue is, however, the growing distance between the two. 

Our real lives are nothing close to what we project on social media. Most adults know the difference, but minor teens fall prey to unattainable reel-life expectations. 

People, especially young teens, feel intimidated by the type of content they see online, creating unrealistic expectations of their bodies and lifestyle. The manipulated content is the source of discontent and depression among minors.

Guarding the mental health of minors:

The Internet is the biggest blessing of technology. But humans have dented its sanity. Cyberbullying, deep fake, online stalking, peer pressure, and rumour spreading, among others, show how social media is mishandled, threatening minors and young adults.

  • More than 45% of teens aged 13-17 have faced cyberbullying. In their research findings, Hinduja and Patchin revealed that teens who experience cyberbullying are twice as likely to commit suicide than those who do not.
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology conducted a study revealing that 96% of deep fake videos are related to pornography, and almost all are about women. Although the age-wise breakdown was unavailable in the study, the possibility of some of the videos turning out to be of minors can surely not be ignored.
  • The research findings of more than 40 researchers conclude that with the increased use of the internet and social media, mental health conditions have also increased.

As stated earlier, parenting includes guarding their offsprings' physical, mental and digital well-being. 

Hence, introducing parental consent for social media access can limit the above-mentioned issues.

Now that we understand the need for parental censoring for minors let us look at the encircling debates around the same. 

Internet and human right violation:

In 2011, United Nations declared internet access as a universal human right. Therefore, disconnecting people from accessing the internet directly violates human rights. However, the debates surrounding inclusion are many. 

During our research on internet usage restrictions for teens, multiple arguments linking the restrictions to human rights violations emerged. 

So is parental censoring a violation of human rights?

Parental censoring is not about blocking internet access; it is more about limiting harmful content for the kid.

As per the sources, limiting teens from using the internet violates their human rights. Likewise, restricting the internet for an adult is a human rights violation. However, the same does not apply to minors living under parental aid. 

 Countries should bet on parental consent:

Leading by the example of Utah State, the US and other nations should incorporate parental consent for social media. And many nations already have a similar infrastructure, such as online gaming.

In China, online gaming for minors is restricted to one hour per day. Hence, implementing restrictions on social media can be done via similar means.

Concluding words:

Although the internet is blamed for cyberbullying and digital attacks on minors, the internet is just a media; the masterminds are humans hating other humans.

Hence, it is vital to understand the real battle is not humans against technology, but it is about protecting humans from other humans that misuse technology. And parents play a pivotal role in protecting their kids.

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