As you may have seen, last week the U. S. Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing specifically to discuss threats to children’s online safety. The Committee questioned the chief executives of five major social media companies about the risks their products pose to children. While there is still much progress to be made, we believe this landmark hearing is a significant turning point in our movement.
The tone of the historic hearing was set, in large part, by the presence of the many grieving families sitting behind the CEOs, whose children and loved ones have died due to factors such as suicide and drug overdoses associated with social media platform negligence.
The revelation that Meta values each child’s potential ad revenue at $270 starkly illustrates the commodification of young users in the digital marketplace. However, this figure barely scratches the surface of the profound impact social media can have on our children’s lives. The true cost cannot be quantified in mere dollars; it encompasses the exposure to harmful content, the potential for detrimental effects on mental health and development and the erosion of privacy. At the hearing, young people boldly countered this valuation, donning t-shirts proclaiming, “I am worth more than $270,” a powerful statement that echoes the sentiment that our children’s safety, well-being, and future potential are invaluable. As lawmakers and the public demand change, it’s clear that the conversation must move beyond financial metrics and monetization to address the comprehensive harms posed by unchecked social media practices.
By the close of the hearing, it was clear. Lawmakers are not only paying attention, but adamantly calling for change. Children’s online safety legislation, such as the Kids Online Safety Act (KOSA), among others, is now a priority for legislators. KOSA, sponsored by Senators Richard Bluementhal (D-CT) and Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), would require social media platforms to take steps to protect children online and has garnered support from tech giants such as X (formerly Twitter), Snap, and Microsoft.
We are encouraged to see bipartisan momentum and public support rapidly building for our cause at a time when Congress struggles to agree on most issues. And yet, Meta and other major technology companies have made challenging social media regulations a priority. Utah, Texas, and California are just a few of the states facing legal challenges to new digital technology regulations. In fact, last year, Children and Screens helped defend the California Age-Appropriate Design Code Act after a stay in the law due to a lawsuit brought by major tech companies.
This is our moment to expand our efforts to support parents, families and lawmakers as they take this fight to the Senate floor and courtrooms around the country.
I am hopeful that we are at a turning point in protecting children across our nation.
P.S. Children and Screens’ donors and supporters have been essential to getting our movement to this historic point. Please join me in helping our children lead healthy digital lives by making a donation today.