As part of a push to safeguard young people’s mental health, state lawmakers voted Friday on two bills aimed at restricting social media use. Both bills now head to Gov. Kathy Hochul’s desk.

“We need all the help we can get,” Jocelynn Cheng said. The help would be for parents like Cheng, who has three teenagers aged 13, 15 and 17 at home. Cheng said she worries about her children’s social media use.

What You Need To Know

  • State legislation aimed at restricting social media use that could be deemed as harmful now heads to Gov. Kathy Hochul's desk to be signed into law

  • The SAFE for Kids Act targets "addictive" algorithms aimed at young people

  • The New York Child Data Protection Act would prohibit social media platforms from collecting personal data from anyone under the age of 18

  • Parents had mixed reactions, with some favoring government regulation, while others believe it's up to parents to monitor what their children are exposed to

“They get sucked in younger and younger, and it’s harder for parents to control. [It] sort of just spirals out of control, and you really have to keep your finger on it,” Cheng said.

The state legislation seeks to restrict social media use that could be deemed harmful.

The SAFE for Kids Act bans social media platforms like TikTok and Instagram from using “addictive” algorithms for users under 18 without parental consent. “Addictive feeds” are defined as content recommended based on information about a user or their device.

The act would also require parents to give parental consent for push notifications to be sent to children between midnight and 6 a.m. Minors would also be required to verify their age.

“It’s a huge struggle, and I think the tech companies are really good at figuring out ways around the parents, and how to get to the children as best as they can, using algorithms, using AI,” Cheng said.

“I think it’s really outside of the laws. It’s really dependent on parents to come up with the right regulations for their own families,” Matthew Rinklin, the father of a three-year-old daughter, said.

The New York Child Data Protection Act would prohibit social media platforms from collecting personal data from anyone under the age of 18. Companies could face a penalty of up to $5,000 per violation. It also mandates default privacy settings for minors.

Teenagers spend around nine hours every day on social media, according to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. Studies show excessive social media use is a catalyst for mental health issues in young people and poor sleeping habits.

“I think for the girls, it definitely impacts them a little bit more, especially in the middle school years, and maybe even early high school years. I think they see what everybody else is doing, they see what they think everything should be, and I feel like they’re constantly trying to catch up with social media,” Cheng said.

Meanwhile, the tech industry is pushing back against the bills. NetChoice — an industry group that advocates for big tech — says this is an assault on free speech and the open internet in New York. The group believes it should be up to parents, not politicians, to monitor and decide what their children are exposed to.

“It really is incumbent on individuals, and families, and parents versus the government really, I mean because there are First Amendment rights,” Rinklin said.

Alberto Favalli Ragusini, the father of two young kids aged three and five, said he’s concerned about the digital environment his children will grow up in.

“It’s a combination of parental activity, and then regulations on the other side, helping parents cope with this wave of social media addiction that is definitely plaguing both younger and older kids,” Ragusini said.

Both of the new social media bills have been approved by the State Senate and State Assembly. Gov. Hochul has indicated her support for the measures and is expected to sign them into law.