Montana Becomes First State to Enact Total Ban on TikTok

Downloads of TikTok will be illegal in Montana as of January 1, 2024. Utah and Arkansas now have social media age restriction laws. Here's how states are cracking down on social media.

Photo Illustration of Phones with social media against map of America

Jasmine Purdie for Parents

Montana has become the first state in the nation to enact a total ban on TikTok. That means no downloads—for everyone in the state. The governor signed the ban into law on May 17, 2023. It's the toughest law we've seen yet aimed at social media. But Montana isn't the only state that has taken action to protect kids (and their parents) from the dangers of social media.

It feels like our children are getting access to social media and technology at a younger and younger age. I will be the first to admit my 2-year-old can already navigate her way to YouTube Kids on most of the devices in our home.

But by now, most adults have seen the research that shows the effects social media has on children. According to the Pew Research Center, 36% of teenagers say they spend too much time on social media. When they were asked about giving up social media, 54% said it would be at least somewhat hard to give it up. YouTube and TikTok were among the top-used social media apps. Social media use is linked to bullying, the spreading of rumors, peer pressure, and an unrealistic view of other people's lives.

While states are working to get bills passed, it ultimately falls into the hands of parents and guardians to ensure our children are monitored while using social media. Easier said than done.

State Laws Restricting Social Media

Under the new law in Montana, downloading TikTok will be illegal. Entities like app stores or even TikTok itself will be fined $10,000 a day for each time someone accesses the platform, is offered the ability to access it, or downloads the app. The new law goes into effect on January 1, 2024.

The law is expected to be challenged in court. While TikTok has not yet said if it will file a lawsuit, a spokesperson told the Associated Press that Montana's law violated users' First Amendment Rights. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the trade group NetChoice also say the new law is unconstitutional.

TikTok is owned by a Chinese company and the law is aimed at protecting privacy. "Today, Montana takes the most decisive action of any state to protect Montanans’ private data and sensitive personal information from being harvested by the Chinese Communist Party,” Gov. Gianforte says in a statement.

While the Montana law was created for cybersecurity reasons—the ban will undoubtedly keep everyone off the platform, including tweens and teens. But experts say it will be hard to enforce.

Other states are enacting laws aimed at protecting children by instituting age restrictions on social media. In March, Utah's Governor signed a bill that prohibits apps such as Tiktok and Instagram from allowing minors to create an account on their platform without the explicit consent of a parent or guardian. The law also requires these social networks to give parents in the state access to posts, messages, and responses.

Following Utah, Arkansas became the second state to restrict the use of social media by minors, requiring the networks to give third-party vendors access to perform age verification checks on minors.

To date, the federal government hasn't been successful in passing any type of social media laws. Lawmakers are closely watching the legal fight that brews in Montana as they've talked about banning TikTok on a national level.

When it comes to protecting young people, on April 25, a bipartisan group of U.S. Senators introduced a bill that would restrict children under 13 from using these apps altogether. Does it have a chance to pass? Maybe. Senators from both sides of the aisle are working together on this bill.

As with any of these laws and restrictions, we all know who the responsibility is going to fall to: The parents or caregivers. "So many parents are at a disadvantage when it comes to their tech acumen versus their child's tech acumen," says Titania Jordan, the chief parent officer at Bark Technologies. "It's one thing if your child enters their real birthdate into these platforms. But most kids are not putting their real age and their real birthdate."

The federal bill would also limit the information used by social media algorithms to power their recommendations when the account belongs to a child aged 13-17. Jordan admits most children are aging themselves up when using these apps to circumvent the current limitations the apps have in place.

States That Ban TikTok on Government Devices

Earlier this year, President Biden banned the use of TikTok on government-issued devices (with some exceptions). As of the publication date, the popular app is banned on government devices in the majority of states. There are currently 35 states with total or partial bans in place. About a dozen other states are considering legislation. There are just five states with nothing in the works.

States Not Considering TikTok Bans
 Colorado  Minnesota  Washington
 Hawaii Rhode Island   

Colleges and Universities Ban TikTok

In states where TikTok bans are in place on government-issued devices, there's been a rise in public universities opting to also ban the app. The ban is usually restricted to on-campus Wi-Fi and university-owned computers. By our count, there are at least 40 colleges and Universities across the country putting restrictions on the popular social media app.

How You Can Protect Your Child on Social Media

Social media has been shown to have significant impacts on the mental health of children. Suicide is among the top three causes of death for teenagers between 15 and 19 years old.

"It really comes down to the parental relationship and how you manage tech in your home," Jordan says. "We have got to be as diligent as we are in making sure our kids are safe in a car with seatbelts and in the sun with sunscreen as we are when they are in front of screens."

With the rapid change of pace in technology and the way new apps are popping up daily, we as parents can't afford to take a backseat when it comes to internet safety. "Stay learning," says Roodlyne Mason, software engineer, mom, and blogger. "Every day is a new potential danger and as a parent, we can't afford to not know. Research as much as you can and learn!"

Keep in mind, kids these days are smart and they are more tech-savvy than we are, despite what we think. "Children are human, which means they will always find a way around the rules and boundaries," Mason adds. "Talk to them! Often! Remind them of the dangers and the dos and don'ts."

Most devices come with free parental controls already within their systems. "Android has 'family link,' Apple has 'screentime' and some internet providers give the option to turn off WiFi on certain devices at a certain time," Mason says. "Set early boundaries and limit screen time and screen age-appropriate content before they get to it."

The most important thing to remember is whether it's the private or public sector, the government or school, the goal is the same. Everyone is working to keep children safe online and communication with our children is the number one way to ensure that we do that. Jordan urged the importance of opening these conversations up with our children at an early age. "This includes conversations that you [the parent] are a safe place. If your child sees something unsettling or scary or just that they're curious about, you're a safe place."

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Parents uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Pew Research Center. Teens, Social Media and Technology 2022.

  2. Bozzola E, Spina G, Agostiniani R, et al. The use of social media in children and adolescents: scoping review on the potential risks. IJERPH. 2022

  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Adolescent Health.

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