State Senate to target teenage social media use, cyberbullying
Published 4:26 pm Monday, August 7, 2023
By Dave Williams
Capitol Beat News Service
ATLANTA – The Georgia Senate will take up legislation this winter aimed at protecting teenagers from cyberbullying and other negative effects of social media use.
“So many bad actors now are targeting our children,” Lt. Gov. Burt Jones, who presides over the Senate, said Monday during a news conference. “People perpetrating these things we’re going to try to hold accountable.”
Numerous studies have found overuse of social media to pose a significant danger to young people, particularly girls, increasing their risk of suicide.
The proposed legislation, which is still in development, would require social media companies to take concrete steps to verify the age of their users. Existing rules requiring schools to monitor bullying would be updated to reflect the realities of modern technology.
The bill also would require social media companies to remove features they know or find to be addictive to minors.
“We want to be sensitive to the First Amendment,” said Sen. Jason Anavitarte, R-Dallas, chairman of the Senate Republican Caucus, who will serve as the bill’s chief sponsor. “[But] we’re making a stand here in Georgia. Something’s got to change.”
Jones said the Georgia law will be modeled after those of states including Louisiana, which has a law on its books requiring social media companies to verify the age of users and imposing fines and/or jail time on those convicted of cyberbullying.
The General Assembly got its feet wet on the social media issue this year, passing legislation backed by Gov. Brian Kemp and sponsored by Anavitarte that bans Tik Tok from state-owned devices. The bill came on the heels of a memo Kemp issued late last year banning Tik Tok, which is owned by a Chinese company, from phones and laptops used by executive branch employees.
Jones said he and other backers of the legislation plan to reach out to social media companies, local school systems and parents for ideas as they craft the bill.
The 2024 General Assembly session will begin Jan. 8.
Policy and Communications Director
ATLANTA |Today, Lt. Governor Burt Jones and Senate Majority Caucus Chair Senator Jason Anavitarte (R – Dallas) announced a 2024 legislative priority to address teenage social media use and cyberbullying.
“Social media touches every part of our daily lives, and while it certainly has its benefits, the potential negative impacts it has on our children cannot be dismissed,” said Lt. Governor Burt Jones. “This legislation will be a critical step toward age verification, removing addictive content, and cracking down on cyberbullying in the social media landscape. Our goal is to ensure we’re safeguarding students against the harmful aspects of social media while maintaining their ability to learn, grow, and connect with the world around them. It is time for policymakers to prioritize real solutions for parents, and in Georgia, we are committed to leading the way.”
“I want to thank Lt. Governor Jones for prioritizing the safety and well-being of Georgia’s children,” said Majority Caucus Chairman Anavitarte. “Parents and schools need our attention and unwavering support in their efforts to build healthy communities by limiting the negative impacts of social media. The mental health of our children and limiting outlets for bullying are critical, and I believe this is a key first step in addressing these issues.”
The proposed legislation, to be introduced during the 2024 Legislative Session, would require social media companies to take concrete steps to verify the age of their users. Existing rules requiring schools to monitor bullying and to educate students and teachers on this issue would be updated to reflect the realities of modern technology. Additionally, social media companies would be required to remove features they know or find to be addictive to children.