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Extension Education Highlight: New social media regulations

 A phone screen showing the app Tik-Tok
Cottonbro Studio

Sariah Israelsen: Thanks for joining me again for another USU Extension Educational Highlight. I'm Sariah Israelsen, and I have with me Christina Pay, Extension assistant professor in Family and Consumer Sciences. Thank you so much for being with me, Christina.

Christina Pay: Thank you for inviting me.

Sariah Israelsen: So let me just give a quick overview of what we'll be talking about today. So, in March, Gov. Cox signed SB 152 Social Media Regulation Amendments, and this bill places restrictions on social media companies and gives parents tools to protect teens from harmful effects of social media. And Utah is the first state to do this.

So Christina, let's start out with some of the regulations being put on social media companies.

Christina Pay: Absolutely. The two bills that were passed into law this year require that social media companies take several actions, really.

1. To limit access by minors, including verifying the age of a Utah adult seeking to maintain or open a social media account, getting the consult of a parent or guardian for Utah users who are under the age of 18.

This one I kind of like. 2. Parents can create a default curfew setting that blocks overnight access to minor accounts. So from 10:30 pm to 6:30 am, those times will be blocked. And parents can adjust those as needed for their own children.

3. Protecting minor accounts from unapproved direct messaging, blocking minor accounts from search results.

4. And the companies cannot collect a minor's data. They cannot target a minor social media account for advertising, and they cannot target minors' social media accounts with addictive designs or features.

Those are just the highlights.

Sariah Israelsen: So are these regulations on all social media companies that go through Utah or is it just specific ones?

Christina Pay: It's my understanding is all social media companies that go through Utah.

Sariah Israelsen: So what are some of the tools that parents are receiving? Is it just that social media is blocked at night? Or are there more tools that they're going to be receiving?

Christina Pay: That is just one. These new laws will also allow parents or guardians full access to their child's account so that they can access that and see what's going on on their child's account. And then it allows parents to sue any social media companies for harm to their child and circumstances in certain circumstances.

Sariah Israelsen: Those sound very interesting and useful tools. I like those a lot.

Christina Pay: I agree. I think they'll be very beneficial. Yes.

Sariah Israelsen: So, I would love it if you could give some tips for parents as they transition into these new regulations. And as they're still trying to figure out this whole social media thing.

Christina Pay: Sure. Keep in mind that these laws won't take effect until March of next year. So there are some things that parents can do to prepare and plan and even just have a good foundation for their youth.

One is to create a family media plan. So have an open discussion as a family about rules and setting boundaries for social media use in your home, established tech-free zones, which will help foster in-person relationships and offline connections.

And then this one we're finding really critical right now: help youth develop social skills and nurture in-person relationships. They're having a difficult time doing that because they're on their phones so much that they don't interact with others. So this is a really good tip to help them learn those skills so that they can have healthy in-person relationships.

Sariah Israelsen: Do you have any tips for the teens as they move into these regulations or as they're using their social media?

Christina Pay: Sure. Our youth are negatively affected by social media. So they need to learn to reach out to a trusted friend, or an adult for help.

There are several websites they can go to to report cyberbullying. They could go to for tips on how to report cyberbullying. And if they have experienced online harassment and abuse by a dating partner, they can also contact experts at Love is Respectfor support.

And if your private messages have been shared online without your permission, visit Take it Down to help get the images removed.

And then another thing they can do, and this is a tough one for youth, is to limit the use of technology to make sure they get enough sleep, and turn off devices at least one hour before bedtime, and leave them off until morning. That will help them get better sleep.

Sariah Israelsen: Well, thank you so much. That was Christina Pay, Extension assistant professor in Family and Consumer Sciences. I'm so glad that you were able to be here with me.

Christina Pay: Oh, thank you so much again for having me.

Vist these links for more on the story:

Utah Protecting Minors Online

The restrictions passed through Utah's Republican-supermajority Legislature reflect how politicians' perceptions of technology companies are changing — and that includes pro-business Republicans.