Opinion | Utah sets a precedent we shouldn’t follow

A bill threatens to undermine the role parents take in their children’s internet access — an unnerving precedent for our country.


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Young boy studying and doing homework using his tablet computer and headphones.

Chris Klepach, Opinions Columnist

When I was younger, my family had a computer that we would use to look at websites, watch videos, and play games online.

Like most children, I was unaware of internet etiquette and safety. It was my parents who taught me about the dangers on the World Wide Web. We didn’t need restrictive monitoring carried out through the legislature.

Navigating the internet can be a way for parents and children to be closer to one another and to understand the content children view on the internet. It won’t just be the children that will be monitored from a recent introduced bill in Utah.

In March, Utah became the first state to limit children’s access to the internet with Utah Senate Bill 152. With this bill in effect, social media companies are required to verify the age of Utah residents who are “seeking to maintain or open a social media account,” the bill reads.

Iowa’s government has been pondering a similar law.

On March 30, it was announced that Republican lawmakers in Iowa are considering House File 526. Under this bill, anyone under 18 years of age would be banned from having a social media account. A social media company that violates this would incur a fine of $1,000.
Rep. John Wills, R-Spirit Lake, explained how parents would be involved with allowing minors on social media.

“We’re going to bring back the parents into this conversation,” Wills said. “If a parent approves of a 16-year-old or a 14-year-old or whatever having a social media platform, then that would be up to the parent’s right to say yes or no to.”

If Iowa were to adopt a bill similar to Utah’s SB0152, it would needlessly complicate internet access to both children and adults. The consequence of a bill like this passing would be in its method of verification.

According to Utah, the general method used in verifying the age of a user would be with an official government ID.

“[Rules will be made to] establish acceptable forms or methods of identification, which may not be limited to a valid identification card issued by a government entity,” the bill reads.

This consequence of the bill can become problematic, as there are many adults who wouldn’t want to use an ID to prove they can use the internet at their own discretion. Even as a 22-year-old man, I know that I wouldn’t feel inclined to say I’m safer because I had my ID card looked at before logging in.

In January, Des Moines Public Schools, considered to be Iowa’s largest school district, canceled every class after “unusual activity” was detected on the school’s network. In a case like this, there are bad actors that can steal information from Iowa schools, who use state databases for student information. Students and staff would be under more risk from enacting an ID bill for network use.

The social media site that U.S. teens aged 13-17 use the most is YouTube. According to a 2022 Pew Research Center survey, 95 percent of teens within this age range have said that they use it.

YouTube’s place as both a social media platform and a learning tool will mean that any child wishing to view course materials at home will need to have their ID known along with their parents.

While the motives of this law read to be protective of children’s internet safety, the exact discrepancies are vague and can be problematic. Adults who may not have an ID won’t be able to privately use the internet.

This bill sets a precedent that no other state should follow.

Columns reflect the opinions of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Editorial Board, The Daily Iowan, or other organizations in which the author may be involved.