Today, Senators Brian Schatz (D-HI), Tom Cotton (R-AR), Chris Murphy (D-CT), and Katie Britt (R-AL) introduced the Protecting Kids on Social Media Act. While well-intentioned, there are a number of serious flaws in the bill. Below is the public statement of a number of parents who have lost children to social media harms.
As parents who have lost our children to social media harms, we know all too well the urgent need for legislation to protect children online. While we are appreciative of Senators Britt, Cotton, Murphy and Schatz for their concern for children’s online safety and the Protecting Kids on Social Media Act, we are deeply concerned that this bill is not the right approach to creating an internet that is truly safe and supportive for young Americans.
We must offer more than simply relying on parental permissions to curb social media harms. Burdening parents with the impossible task of regulating the ever-changing internet for their children by themselves leaves America’s youth at risk and lets Big Tech off the hook once again. If parents decide that social media is right for their family, then those children deserve to be protected from social media harms — but this bill would not create those protections. Even the most diligent parents cannot anticipate what harms their children might encounter next online.
We were engaged parents, who regularly talked to our children about risks they might face on the internet, and we monitored their time online. Sadly, that wasn’t enough to protect them from these corporations designing their products to keep young viewers engaged at any cost.
In addition, the Protecting Kids on Social Media Act does not go far enough to curb many of the design harms that put young people at risk. While the bill’s limits on algorithmic recommendations would help to curb the amplification of dangerous challenges and other harmful content, the bill does nothing to address the myriad of other harms, including infinite scroll features, quantified popularity, addictive features like SnapStreaks, contact from strange adults, anonymous cyberbullying, and more.
Regulations that will meaningfully protect children and teens on the internet must put the burden on online platforms to ensure that their products (which have yielded them billions of dollars in profits) do not harm young people. The Kids Online Safety Act and COPPA 2.0, which would respectively create a “duty of care” for tech companies and create new privacy rights for young people, will provide this robust protection. We urge members of Congress to come together to support KOSA and COPPA 2.0. Every day that children are left unprotected on the internet means more young lives are needlessly lost.
Joann Bogard, Evansville, IN, Mason Bogard, Forever 15
Kristin Bride, Mesa AZ, Carson Bride, Forever 16
Deb Schmill, Needham, MA, Becca Schmill, Forever 18
Maurine Molak, San Antonio, TX, David Molak, Forever 16
Judy Rogg, Santa Monica, CA, Erik Robinson, Forever 12
Bridgette Norring, Hastings, MN, Devin Norring, Forever 19
Julianna Arnold, New Rochelle, NY, Coco, Forever 17
Erin Popolo, South Brunswick, NJ, Emily Murillo, Forever 17
Rose Bronstein, Chicago, IL, Nate Bronstein, Forever 15
Amy Neville, San Tan Valley, AZ, Alexander Neville, Forever 14
Brian Montgomery, Starkville, MS, Walker Montgomery, Forever 16
Mary Rodee, Canton, NY, Riley Basford, Forever 15
Jeff Van Lith, Issaquah, WA, Ethan Van Lith, Forever 13
Sharon Winkler, Atlanta, GA, Alex Peiser, Forever 17
Annie McGrath, Madison, WI, Griffin McGrath, Forever 13
Christine McComas, Woodbine, MD, Grace McComas, Forever 15