What Is SB 976? California’s Landmark Social Media Addiction Bill

Phone placed in a trap

In January 2024, California state legislators unveiled a landmark social media addiction bill. State Senator Nancy Skinner introduced the legislation in late January, citing the need for parents to be “back in the driver’s seat.” Co-authors include Senators Ben Allen (D-Santa Monica) Angelique Ashby (D-Sacramento), María Elena Durazo (D-Los Angeles), Susan Rubio (D-Baldwin Park), and Scott Wilk (R-Santa Clarita).

Titled “Protecting Our Kids from Social Media Addiction,” Senate Bill 976 proposes restrictions on exposing vulnerable youth to addictive content. SB 976 is only the second bill to protect children and youth on social media. At the Social Media Victims Law Center, we’re committed to helping parents understand the benefits of this critical legislation.

What Is SB 976?

Senate Bill 976 is an attempt to safeguard children from the damaging effects of social media addiction. The bill’s co-authors explain that social media platforms deliver content using potentially addictive algorithms. The authors of SB 976 created the bill to limit this potential for addiction. In their words:

"It is essential, given the ongoing youth mental health crisis, that California act to ensure that social media platforms obtain parental consent before exposing children and adolescents to these features."

If legislators sign SB 976 into law, it will be known as the Protecting Youth from Social Media Addiction Act, imposing key restrictions on social media companies and giving parents more control over their children’s social media time.

What Are the Main Requirements of SB 976?

Senate Bill 976 would prevent social media companies from delivering addictive feeds unless the platform has secured parental consent or verified that the user is not a minor. It would also prohibit platforms from sending notifications to minors between 12 a.m. and 6 a.m. and between 8 a.m. and 3 p.m. on weekdays, except by parental consent.

Parental Restrictions

SB 976 would allow parents to opt into specific controls limiting their child’s social media use. Those limits may include:

  • Accessing notifications only during parent-specified hours.
  • Having limited knowledge of the number of people who interact with their content.
  • Sharing content only with those inside their social network.
  • Using social media within a parent-specified time limit, with one hour as the default.

Additionally, parents would have the option to select a non-personalized feed for their child. With this restriction activated, the platform could not use the child’s activity or preferences to select what content they see.

General Requirements for Social Media Platforms

In addition to parental controls, SB 976 would impose the following two requirements on social media companies:

  • Prohibiting platforms from lowering service quality or access or increasing prices for users who impose parental controls.
  • Requiring social media companies to disclose their number of minor users, as well as the number of those who enable parental controls.

Finally, the bill allows the state’s attorney general to impose further regulations to protect vulnerable youth.

What Is the Status of the Bill?

SB 976 received its first reading in the California State Senate on January 29, 2024. As of January 30, members of the Senate have received copies of the bill for review. The Senate may act on the bill on or after February 29.

The California State Legislature publishes updates on active bills. The public can check this bill’s status on the legislature’s website.

What Is the Importance of the Landmark Social Media Addiction Bill?

By introducing SB 976, California has become one of the few states to acknowledge the destructive power of social media addiction.

Social media platforms use personalization algorithms designed to keep users coming back. Studies have shown that these patterns can lead to social media addiction, which damages the mental, emotional, and social well-being of children and young adults.

SB 976 is groundbreaking because it targets social media’s addictive potential for young people. Here’s how this legislation changes the picture:

  • It defines an “addictive feed” – The bill specifies addictive social media content as chosen and recommended for a specific user based on that user’s prior behavior.
  • It restricts addictive content – SB 976 prohibits platforms from presenting addictive personalized feeds to youth, except by explicit parental consent.
  • It limits exposure to likes and comments – The bill limits minors’ ability to view the number of likes and comments their content receives. These social markers are leading causes of social media addiction, especially among young people primed to seek out social capital.
  • It imposes “dark hours” – The bill’s notification blackout times cover most teens’ school and sleep hours. Parents would need to consent to changing these hours.
  • It requires opt-out permission – Under SB 976, all minor-owned accounts would be private, and limits are active by default. Parental consent would be necessary to override these limits.

SB 976 would cast a wider net than traditional parental controls by not requiring parents to opt into protections. Instead, controls are in place by default, and parents can instead opt out of using them.

Reactions From the Public on SB 976

Multiple news outlets have released stories that explain why SB 976 matters.

The University of California, Riverside’s newspaper, The Highlander, called the bill an “attack [on] silent productivity killers.” According to the story’s student author, the ban on late-night notifications and addictive advertising will help children be more productive, rested, and focused.

Engadget also reported on the bill, explaining that it allows parents to opt out of an algorithm-driven feed for their children. The article emphasized the connection between algorithmic feeds and addiction, linking to a Surgeon General’s warning about the dangers of social media.

The advisory includes evidence that supports the passage of a protective social media bill. It notes that excessive social media use “can trigger pathways comparable to addiction” and lead to “sleep problems, attention problems, and feelings of exclusion among adolescents.”

The bill has also received coverage from local news outlets, including KSBY on California’s Central Coast. Like other stories, this article quotes Senator Skinner and other experts, including the American Federation of Teachers.

Protecting Kids on Social Media Act

California’s SB 976 has several features in common with the Protecting Kids on Social Media Act, a bipartisan federal bill introduced in April 2023. The act would:

  • Set the universal minimum age for social media to 13.
  • Require parental consent for minors to use any social platform.
  • Ban addictive algorithms on minors’ social feeds.

Like SB 976, this act explicitly targets the addictive features of social media. It universally prohibits personalized content geared to young people’s interests. Unlike the California bill, it does not allow parents to opt out of this control for their children.

Only the California social media bill limits minors’ exposure to notifications and engagement—likes, comments, and shares. SB 976 would demonstrate lawmakers’ strong support for social media controls if enacted.

Contact Us for More Information

The Social Media Victims Law Center is committed to holding social media companies accountable for their impact on young users. We provide family resources and have filed multiple social media lawsuits against prominent platforms, including Snapchat and TikTok.

We understand that protecting your children on social media can be challenging without protective laws in place. We continue to advocate for parents and children in and outside courtrooms, and we’re here to help you understand your options.

If your child has suffered harm from social media or you believe they may be addicted, we have resources that can help. Contact us today for a free and confidential case evaluation.

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