PROTECTING YOUR KIDS ONLINE
PROTECTING YOUR KIDS ONLINE
How are children harmed on social media?
Everyone’s on social media these days, including elementary school students. Although most platforms require users to be 13 years old to participate, there are sites created specifically for the under-13 set. The average age when kids get a smartphone is only ten years old. Within six months, research shows, 50% of those youngsters are active on social media platforms.
Parents try their best to protect their children from harm, and there’s plenty of that out there. For instance, a Wall Street Journal investigation discovered Facebook knew that teen use of Instagram worsened body image for one in three teenage girls and that all adolescents experienced depression and anxiety related to their use of social media. Other studies have demonstrated how social media can cause or exacerbate eating disorders.
The use of social media platforms can also lead to antisocial behavior like vandalism and provide an easy way to gang up on others. This practice, called cyberbullying, has had devastating consequences for at-risk kids.
Even without such dire consequences, regular use of social media can lead to internet addiction, changes in behavior, stress, anxiety, attention problems, and sensory overload.
The Senate Takes Up the Challenge
The Kids Online Safety Act, also known as KOSA, seeks to prevent minors from harm while online in social media platforms. The bill, which has bipartisan support, sets out requirements to protect minors from harm on social media platforms.
What Would KOSA Do?
- KOSA would regulate social media platforms that minors are likely to use such as Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok. It would not cover email, educational institutions, or internet service providers.
- If passed into law, KOSA would require covered platforms to provide minors with certain safeguards.
- KOSA would require settings that restrict access to the personal data of minors.
- Under KOSA, social media platforms must also provide parents or guardians with ways to supervise their children’s use of social media. Examples of this supervision include the control of privacy and account settings.
According to the Congressional Research summary, the regulated social media platforms would also have to:
- “disclose specified information, including details regarding the use of personalized recommendation systems and targeted advertising;
- allow parents, guardians, minors, and schools to report certain harms;
- refrain from facilitating advertising of age-restricted products or services (e.g., tobacco and gambling) to minors; and
- annually report on foreseeable risks of harm to minors from using the platform.”
If passed into law, KOSA would be enforced by state attorneys general.
Some groups have criticized KOSA for fear of increased censorship of artwork. One political activist claims it could backfire and cause more harm than good while others think KOSA doesn’t go far enough in its protections.