Iowa House passes bill requiring parental permission for children to use social media

Photo by Des Moines Register.

By Galen Bacharier, Des Moines Register

Iowa House lawmakers approved a bill Wednesday that would require children to have their parents’ permission to open and use social media accounts.

House File 2523 would prohibit those under 18 years old from creating an account on platforms like Instagram, Facebook and TikTok before receiving express permission from a parent or guardian. That parent or guardian can revoke permission at any time, and would be provided a password or other means of access to monitor activity on the platform.


Iowa’s attorney general would also be allowed to bring civil lawsuits against any company that violates the parental permission requirements or harms a resident of the state through their platform.

Rep. Charley Thomson, R-Charles City, said the bill filled in the gap between 13-year-olds, the minimum age to use social media under federal rules, and adults — and could act as a safeguard against the manipulation of minors online and further harm that stems from it.

“I’d like this body to be cognizant of the number of deaths that have occurred because of exploitation of social media by bad actors,” said Thomson, the bill’s sponsor.


The measure passed the House with wide bipartisan support on an 88-6 vote.

“I think the intent of this bill is very good,” said Rep. Sami Scheetz, D-Cedar Rapids. “As somebody who grew up during the age of social media, I know firsthand some of the harms that can have on the mental health of children in our state.”

Iowa Poll: Most favor parental approval for social media

More than half of Iowans, 55%, say they favor the bill, the new Des Moines Register/Mediacom Iowa Poll found, while 42% oppose it. The remaining 3% are not sure.


Support among Iowa parents with children under 18 is similar to support from all adults, with 57% of parents in favor and 41% opposed.  

The poll results reflect differences across party lines, with 61% of Iowa Republicans in favor of the bill, while 35% oppose it. In contrast, only 39% of Democrats support the bill, while a majority (55%) do not. Among independents, 57% favor the bill, while 42% oppose it.  

And support for the bill also varies among age groups, the poll shows. Fifty-nine percent of Iowans ages 45 and older support the legislation, while 52% of Iowans under age 35 oppose it. 


Social media measures have encountered resistance in other states

Lawmakers in several other states — including Arkansas, Ohio and Utah — have sought similar restrictions on social media for youth.

But those laws have run into resistance, primarily from a tech trade group that includes Snap, Google, TikTok and Meta, which operates Facebook and Instagram. That group has taken those measures to court and won temporary injunctions in Arkansas and Ohio.

Rep. John Wills, R-Spirit Lake, told the Register in February that he believed Iowa’s law “should survive a challenge” if taken to court.

Virginia Barreda contributed reporting.

Galen Bacharier covers politics for the Register. Reach him at [email protected] or (573) 219-7440, and follow him on Twitter @galenbacharier.

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