The California Assembly passed a measure Monday that would allow parents to sue social media companies for up to $25,000 per violation if their child becomes addicted to the platforms.
According to the bill, "addiction" is defined as those under 18 who are harmed physically, mentally, emotionally, developmentally or materially, and who wish to stop or cut down on their social media usage but are unable to because they are preoccupied or obsessed with the platforms.
"The era of unfettered social experimentation on children is over, and we will protect kids," Republican Assemblyman and author of the bill Jordan Cunningham said.
The legislation, which would take effect January 1 if it becomes law, will now go to the state Senate for hearings and negotiations among lawmakers and advocates.
The bill would only apply to social media companies that made $100 million or more in gross revenue in the past year, appearing to primarily center on social media giants like Facebook, Twitter and TikTok.
The proposal would not affect streaming services like Netflix and Hulu and companies that only offer email and text messaging services.
Democratic Assemblyman Ken Cooley said that, as a lawyer, he typically does not support legislation that establishes additional opportunities for lawsuits but explained that lawmakers must "change the dynamics of what is surrounding us, surrounding our kids."
"We have to do something," he said. "If it doesn't turn out right we can modify as we go along."
The bill would not hold social media companies liable if they remove features considered addictive to children by April 1, or if they conduct regular audits of their practices to identify and remove potentially addictive features.
But technology companies argue that the social media platforms would not be able to run the risk of continuing to host minors on their sites should the proposal become law.
"Social media companies and online web services would have no choice but to cease operations for kids under 18 and would implement stringent age-verification in order to ensure that adolescents did not use their sites," TechNet, a bipartisan network of technology CEOs and senior executives, wrote in a letter to lawmakers.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.