Latinos are the heaviest users of TikTok, Instagram, and Whatsapp
Latinos are the heaviest users of TikTok, Instagram, and Whatsapp, in the U.S. dole777/Unsplash

Florida is set to have one of the country's most restrictive social media laws for minors, following the approval of Governor Ron DeSantis. The initiative, which is set to face a score of legal challenges, bans social media accounts for children under 14 and requires parental permission for those aged 15 and 16. It will take effect on the first day on the next year.

Supporters expect the law to withstand legal challenges, concerned about addictive features, notification alerts and auto-play videos, among them. Several states have sued the main apps, TikTok, Meta's Facebook and Instagram among them, accusing them of harming young users' mental health through features that demand their constant attention.

Dozens of state attorney generals did so with Meta in October last years, claiming its products have harmed minors and contributed to a mental health crisis in the country.

"Meta has profited from children's pain by intentionally designing its platforms with manipulative features that make children addicted to their platforms while lowering their self-esteem," said Letitia James, the attorney general for New York.

In fact, a new book by New York University social psychologist Jonathan Haidt suggests parent shouldn't give their kids smartphones until they turn 16, saying the shift from "play-based" to "phone-based" childhoods is making them miserable.

"The Anxious Generation: How the Great Rewiring of Childhood Is Causing an Epidemic of Mental Illness," claims that this lifestyle is causing "social deprivation, sleep deprivation, attention fragmentation and addiction."

A recent study by NGO Omidyar Network showed that the vast majority of Latino parents support a measure like Florida's.

The study, titled "Parents of Latino Youth Social Media and Mental Health Survey," delved into consumption from this community as previous studies showed that Latinos use social media at higher rates than non-Latino Americans. This is especially relevant for the demographic, considering that Hispanics have a higher percentage of their population between the ages of 10 and 18 than any other group in the country.

The majority of Latino parents (71%) said that their teenagers and pre-teens are active users of social media, the report added. The organization highlighted that social media usage is particularly prevalent among parents of older teenagers, with 81% of those with children aged 15 to 18 reporting social media activity.

Regarding frequency, the survey delved into the habits of the 71% of parents whose children use social media. Among them, 71% revealed that their children spend "several hours a day" or are engaged "almost constantly" on social media platforms.

Additionally, one-third of Latino parents said that their children are "almost constantly" on social media.

One section of the questionnaire, conducted with a total of 558 Latino parents, was completely dedicated to exploring whether they would support three specific policies:

  • About 94% of respondents would support a measure "to require tech companies to better and more transparently assess the impact of their products on children and establish age restrictions for social media use on their platforms."
  • Again, 94% said they were in favor of "including digital and social media literacy in the curriculum of our schools so all children are informed of the harms of social media and given skills to help use it more safely."
  • Finally, 97% expressed their support for a policy aimed at "strengthening safety standards required for social media platforms and making social media safer for children of all ages by better protecting children's privacy through apps and social media platforms."

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