Lt. Gov. Burt Jones presides over the Georgia Senate.

ATLANTA – The Georgia Senate will take up legislation this winter aimed at protecting teenagers from cyberbullying and other negative effects of social media use.

“So many bad actors now are targeting our children,” Lt. Gov. Burt Jones, who presides over the Senate, said Monday during a news conference. “People perpetrating these things we’re going to try to hold accountable.”

Numerous studies have found overuse of social media to pose a significant danger to young people, particularly girls, increasing their risk of suicide.

The proposed legislation, which is still in development, would require social media companies to take concrete steps to verify the age of their users. Existing rules requiring schools to monitor bullying would be updated to reflect the realities of modern technology.

The bill also would require social media companies to remove features they know or find to be addictive to minors.

“We want to be sensitive to the First Amendment,” said Sen. Jason Anavitarte, R-Dallas, chairman of the Senate Republican Caucus, who will serve as the bill’s chief sponsor. “[But] we’re making a stand here in Georgia. Something’s got to change.”

Jones said the Georgia law will be modeled after those of states including Louisiana, which has a law on its books requiring social media companies to verify the age of users and imposing fines and/or jail time on those convicted of cyberbullying.

The General Assembly got its feet wet on the social media issue this year, passing legislation backed by Gov. Brian Kemp and sponsored by Anavitarte that bans TikTok from state-owned devices. The bill came on the heels of a memo Kemp issued late last year banning TikTok, which is owned by a Chinese company, from phones and laptops used by executive branch employees.

Jones said he and other backers of the legislation plan to reach out to social media companies, local school systems and parents for ideas as they craft the bill.

The 2024 General Assembly session will begin Jan. 8.