Parents push Congress to pass tougher social media laws

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Social media negatively impacts teens, new study finds

Photo: CHANDAN KHANNA (Getty Images)

Parents call on Congress to pass tougher rules monitor child data and social media accounts, claiming the platforms played a role in the deaths of their children harm or even death.

In a letter in Congress members, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York), Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) and others, 55 parents wrote that they had lost their children, aged 10 until 21 years to “fentanyl poisoning from drugs bought on social media” and “dangerous viral ‘challenges’ that cost them their lives”.

They said they blamed “Big Tech”, saying they “chose to prioritize profits over the safety and well-being of young people”. The purpose of the letter was to urge Congress act now before more children are injured or die.

Many of the challenges that would have contributed to the lack of child safety have included the TikTok pod pod challenge, the NyQuil Chicken Challengeand the blackout challenge who encouraged young people to hold their breath until they passed out.

Social media has been shown to play an ongoing role in depression and anxiety in adolescents, and according to a BYU studyteenage girls who spend two to three hours on social media each day have a high rate suicide risk. The inclusion of social media challenges played a prominent role according to a University of Utah blog which references the Blue Whale challenge on Snapchat which encourages teens to engage in unhealthy behaviors like getting cut or burned.

The parents of children who died from the social media challenges, cyberbullying, and drugs asked Congress to enact the Kids Online Safety Act and the Children and Teens’ Online Privacy Protection Act. These bills would allow parents to have more of a role in their children’s online presence by monitoring their activity and would require companies to implement safeguards and expand restrictions for collecting teens’ data.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut) is leading a separate online safety measure and said at a news conference that passing the bill is “[his] Personal priority. I worked on a comprehensive privacy bill. All in his favour. There are still obstacles to this. This bill is doable. … We have to make this bill. He added: “I will be deeply disappointed and angry if we don’t.”

Maurine Molak says she lost his son David to suicide after facing months of cyberbullying on social media. He was 17 years old. She said The Washington Post that his son “couldn’t get him to stop”, adding, “I couldn’t get him to stop”.

Deb Schmill, who also signed the letter to Congress, told the outlet that her daughter Becca died of fentanyl poisoning she and a friend found on social media. She said: “Social media companies aren’t doing enough to prevent it, and this bill will hold them accountable for that.”

Parents Together organizers are meeting with key lawmakers this week to urge them to do what they can to pass this legislation. The group added: “Our children should not be collateral damage in the relentless pursuit of profit from tech companies. Big Tech must be held accountable for business decisions that take the lives of our children.

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