FILE - cell phone, smart phone, social media

(The Center Square) – Social media platforms operating in Ohio could soon be required to determine if a user is under the age of 16 and get parental consent before allowing a youngster to use its application.

The Social Media Parental Notification Act, included in Gov. Mike DeWine’s proposed budget, targets apps like Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, TikTok, Snapchat and other gaming and activities companies. It would not include ecommerce or online shopping apps.

“This is about protecting our children and requiring these social media companies to include parents in the decision-making before allowing kids on their platforms,” Lt. Gov. Jon Husted said. “The evidence is clear that social media is a destructive force in the lives of our children, and we need to make it easier for parents to protect their children and hold social media companies more accountable for the consequences of what happens on their platforms.”

If passed and signed into law, companies would have 90 days to create a way to determine if a user is under 16, get verifiable parental consent and send written confirmation to the parent.

If a parent or legal guardian refuses to consent to the terms of service, the company would have to deny access to the child.

The proposed legislation drew support from Tim and Tamia Woods, who created the “Do It For James Foundation” to advocate awareness of sextortion and other cybercrimes after their son James' suicide.

According to the statement released by the Streetsboro Police Department and Streetsboro City Schools where James was a student-athlete, “sextortion” is an online crime that happens when an adult poses as a same-aged peer to convince a victim to share sexual pictures or perform sexual acts on camera. 

The Woods family and local police discovered that hundreds of messages, over the span of nearly 20 hours, were sent to James via social media in an effort to extort him for money.

"Everyone is connected with the internet, there are good and bad things that can come from it," Tim and Tamia Woods said in a news release. "We are here as Tim and Tamia (James Woods‘ Parents) but also as the Do It for James Foundation to help raise awareness, provide tools for students to help fight against cyber attacks and assist to provide an overall betterment for our youth." 

Regional Editor

An Ohio native, J.D. Davidson is a veteran journalist with more than 30 years of experience in newspapers in Ohio, Georgia, Alabama and Texas. He has served as a reporter, editor, managing editor and publisher.