- It's time for an update to the COPPA regime to truly keep underage children off social-media platforms and put the power back in the hands of parents where it belongs. Tweet This
- The Protecting Kids on Social Media Act would be a strong step in the right direction to give parents final authority over their children’s social-media use. Tweet This
- Big Tech has designed its social-media platforms to addict our children. Tweet This
Big Tech has designed its social-media platforms to addict our children. It is a predatory industry, hooking kids to maximize “user engagement” for profit. These companies have proven themselves to be disinterested in the welfare of children. Rather, they are in a race to the bottom to capture young users first. Now, Congress is saying “enough.”
Current federal law to date, the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) of 1998, has rendered parents practically powerless to prevent their children from opening a social-media account. COPPA says that companies may not collect data on minors under the age of 13, and since this is how social media’s business model operates, the de facto age for creating an account has been 13. But it has not been meaningfully enforced because the knowledge standard for liability is extremely high. For social-media companies to be liable for allowing an underage child on their platforms, they had to have “actual knowledge” that the user was underage (essentially meaning they’d need a user’s birth certificate to know that). The result is that eight- to 12-year-olds are all over social media.
Individual parents might (and do) try to keep their kids off social media, but if all a kid has to do is enter a birth date to launch an account, they can just go behind their parents’ backs. It is time for an update to the COPPA regime to truly keep underage children off social-media platforms and to put the power over children’s social-media use back in the hands of parents where it belongs. This is exactly what the new bipartisan Protecting Kids on Social Media Act would do if passed.
The bill, introduced last week by Senator Tom Cotton (R., Ark.), Senator Brian Schatz (D., Hawaii), Senator Chris Murphy (D., Conn.), and Senator Katie Britt (R., Ala.), would ban social media for all children under the age of 13, require companies to do meaningful age-verification, obligate parental consent for any minor under the age of 18 to form an account (consent that can be revoked at any time), and ban the use of algorithms to recommend content to a minor’s account. This bill would be a very strong step in the right direction to give parents final authority on their children’s social-media use.
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