On Monday, November 14, 57 grieving parents whose children have died as a result of social media harms sent a letter to congressional leadership demanding the passage of online protections for minors before the end of the year. In a letter organized by Fairplay, ParentsTogether Action, and Eating Disorders Coalition, the parents urged lawmakers to pass the Kids Online Safety Act (S. 3663) and the Children and Teens’ Online Privacy Protection Act (S. 1628). Signatories to the letter lost children to dangerous viral “challenges,” to suicide after relentless cyberbullying, and to accidental overdose and fentanyl poisoning from drugs purchased through social media.
To learn more, read the parents’ letter below.
Dear Speaker Pelosi, Leader McCarthy, Leader Schumer, Leader McConnell, Senator Cantwell, Senator Wicker, Representative Pallone, and Representative McMorris Rodgers,
We write to you as grieving parents and survivors. We have lost our children to suicide in the wake of relentless cyberbullying. We have lost our children to fentanyl poisoning from drugs purchased through social media. We have lost our children to dangerous viral “challenges” that took their lives. We have lost our children because time and time again, Big Tech chose to prioritize profits over the safety and wellbeing of young people.
We cannot wait another day, let alone another year. Children are dying. We urge you to pass Senate Bills 2918 and 3663, the Children and Teens’ Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA 2.0) and the Kids Online Safety Act (KOSA).
As parents raising our children in the digital age, we did everything we were supposed to. We were open with our children about the dangers they might encounter online and how to react to them, warned them against speaking to strangers on the internet, encouraged them to come to us with their worries. And still, that wasn’t enough: even an engaged parent with all the time and resources in the world doesn’t stand a chance against the profit-seeking algorithms pushing harmful content to their kids.
Big Tech’s abject failure to regulate themselves and protect the young people using their products could not come at a worse time for American children and teens. Between 2010 and 2020, the suicide death rate increased 62% for teens. In 2021, global rates of depression and anxiety among young people were 25% and 20% respectively. Rates of emergency room visits for children and teens for depression, anxiety, and other psychiatric issues rose by 28% between 2011 and 2015. US emergency rooms saw more teen girls admitted for eating disorders during the pandemic. Fatal overdoses among teens doubled between 2019 and 2020, and rose by another 20% in 2021.
The mental health crisis is not happening in a vacuum: a well-established body of research (some from tech companies themselves) shows how algorithmic amplification and social media exacerbate these problems for young people. And we know from first-hand experience how digital platforms can turn the normal trials and tribulations of adolescence into incomprehensible tragedy.
Our children should not be collateral damage in tech companies’ relentless push for profits. Big Tech must be held accountable for the business decisions that are taking our children’s lives.
This is why COPPA 2.0 and the Kids Online Safety Act are so urgently needed. If passed into law, KOSA would require digital platforms to design their products with the best interests of children and teens as a primary consideration. Tech companies would have a duty of care to minors, requiring them to mitigate the impact of harmful content on their platforms.
The Children and Teens’ Online Privacy Protection Act would get to the heart of Big Tech’s bad business model by limiting data collection for young people and banning data-driven surveillance advertising for children and opting teens out of it by default. Tech companies that turn a blind eye to the millions of kids under 13 on their platform would be held accountable for profiting from their sensitive data. And for the first time ever, teens would be granted online privacy protections.
American families need COPPA 2.0 and the Kids Online Safety Act now: we cannot delay any more. Every single day that social media remains unregulated, more children are lost to its harms.
Please, pass the Children and Teens’ Online Privacy Protection Act and the Kids Online Safety Act today.
Parent to Nylah, forever age 10
Parent to Coco, forever age 17
Twin sibling to Charles, forever age 11
Parent to Danny, forever age 19
Steve and Joann Bogard
Parents to Mason, forever 15
Parent to Carson, forever age 16
Parent to Nate, forever age 15
Parent to Tristen Walker Mackintosh, forever age 10
Parent to Justin, forever age 16
Parent to Jamie Tuggle, forever age 12
Parent to Brianna, forever age 12
Parent to Tristain, forever age 16
Parent to Gage, forever age 14
Parent to Gage, forever age 14
Parent to Jack Servi, forever age 16
Parent to Zach Peters, forever age 13
Parent to Eric, forever age 15
Grandmother to Curtis McAbee, forever age 11
Eleanor B. Jarman
Parent to Joshua, forever age 13
Parent to Mack, forever age 17
Parent to Zachary Gist Jones, forever age 16
Parent to Vincent, forever age 20
Parent to Joshua, forever age 14
Parent to Aiden Alvey, forever age 14
Parent to Markus, forever age 15
Parent to Mathew Gabriel Vargas, forever age 13
Parent to Ashlyn, forever age 16
Parent to Josiah Velasquez, forever age 15
Parent to Uriah, forever age 12
Parent to Vincent Kafka, forever age 20
Parent to Grace, forever age 15
Parent to Griffin (“Bubba”), forever age 13
Grandmother to Ethan, forever age 10
Parent to David, forever age 16
Parent to Alexander, forever age 14
Parent to Devin, forever age 19
Parent to Michael, forever age 21
Parent to Olivia Green, forever age 15
Parent to Noah Dennis, forever age 13
Parent to Keston Roundy, forever age 13
Parent to Riley, forever age 15
Parent to Kristopher, forever age 12
Parent to Erik Robinson, forever age 12
Parent to Becca, forever age 18
Parent to Jack, forever age 16
Parent to Skyler, forever age 12
Parent to Kaylie, forever age 17
Parent to Kevin, forever age 15
Jeff Van Lith
Parent to Ethan, forever age 13
Parent to David J., forever age 18
Parent to Luke, forever age 14
Parent to Christopher, forever age 12
Parent to Alex, forever age 17
Sondra and Shane Worthley
Parents to Xander, forever age 12
Parent to Evan, forever age 12