By James Brooks
Alaska Beacon 

State House passes ban on children under 14 from social media

 


The Alaska House of Representatives voted by a wide margin and with bipartisan support on April 26 to ban children younger than 14 from using online social media.

House Bill 254, from Homer Rep. Sarah Vance, also requires companies that provide internet pornography to check whether an Alaskan viewing that pornography is at least 18 years old.

The bill, which passed on a 33-6 vote, advances to the Senate for further consideration in the final two weeks before the legislative adjournment deadline.

Vance said the age requirement, which also requires parents to sign off on 14- and 15-year-olds using social media, is about protecting children.

“It contributes to the well-being of our children, because we know that continued exposure to this kind of content affects their mental health, the way that they view themselves, the way that they view relationships, body images, and it really gives a twisted view of what healthy sexuality is,” she said before the vote.

The bill was originally written without the social media component, which was inserted via an amendment by Anchorage Rep. Andrew Gray.

“I believe that with the inclusion of (a) social media (ban) for kids under 14, and only with parental consent for those under 16, we are achieving the goal of the underlying bill, which is to prevent young people from seeing online pornography,” Gray said before the vote on his amendment April 24.

The bill’s opponents — and even some of its supporters — said they believe it raises privacy and constitutional free-speech concerns. The bill requires pornography websites to verify ages via a “commercially reasonable age verification method,” which could entail submitting an ID.

Supporters acknowledged those issues but said they hope the Senate will address potential problems, while detractors said the potential problems are too big to be overcome.

“There might be a scenario in the future where it is safe enough to protect people from privacy concerns, but really, I am very concerned about the privacy of all individuals who might have to comply with this type of commercial age verification technology,” said Anchorage Rep. Genevieve Mina, who voted against the bill.

The original version of the bill is similar to legislation backed by the National Decency Coalition, which says that 16 states have passed bills it supported.

Legal challenges in state and federal courts have had mixed results, and last month, the New Orleans-based 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Texas’ version of the law in a 2-1 decision.

The Alaska Beacon is an independent, donor-funded news organization. Alaskabeacon.com

 

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