WASHINGTON–U.S. Senators Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawai‘i), Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), and Katie Britt (R-Ala.) on Thursday authored an op-ed in the Washington Post on social media’s harmful impact on kids and the importance of their legislation, the Protecting Kids on Social Media Act.
“We are a bipartisan group of senators and parents who are concerned about the harmful effects of social media use on our children. On April 26, we introduced the Protecting Kids on Social Media Act, a bill to keep young children off social media, crack down on addictive algorithms that boost toxic content and empower parents to decide when their children are old enough to create an account,” the senators wrote.
On social media companies’ financial incentive to addict kids to their products, the senators wrote: “The technology industry bears much of the blame for keeping children locked to their screens. Social media platforms use powerful algorithms to hook users and keep them scrolling as long as possible. The financial incentive to addict the young is clear: The more time users spend on apps such as Facebook or Snapchat, the more money those companies make from advertising — and the more targeted, and thus more valuable, those ads will become. And to meet that goal and keep children hooked, these personalized algorithms often feed kids toxic content meant to induce an emotional reaction, making them more depressed, anxious and upset. The results have been devastating: a generation of young Americans suffering from mental health issues.”
The senators explained how their legislation would keep kids safer on social media: “We wish social media companies could cure these problems on their own. But these companies have proved incapable or unwilling to protect kids on their platforms. It falls to Congress, then, to offer sensible new safeguards for kids’ use of social media. The Protecting Kids on Social Media Act would require social media companies to verify the age of users and prevent children younger than 13 from using their platforms. Further, the bill would require the companies to obtain the consent of a parent or guardian before allowing teenagers under 18 on the platform. And it would prevent the companies from using personalized algorithms to promote content to underage users, cracking down on addiction and “rabbit holes” of dark and disturbing content.”
The senators concluded: “The Protecting Kids on Social Media Act would not solve every problem of the digital age, but it would curb some of the worst abuses of social media companies that prioritize profit over our kids’ safety and well-being. Congress can no longer sit on the sidelines.”
The Protecting Kids on Social Media Act would set a minimum age of 13 to use social media apps and would require parental consent for 13 through 17 year-olds. The bill would also prevent social media companies from feeding algorithmically personalized content or advertising to users under the age of 18.
Read the full op-ed here.