A First Step in Online Child Protection

Written by PTC | Published April 5, 2024

Last week, Florida took bold and courageous action to protect children online. Now it’s time for other states and the Federal Government to do the same.

HB3, which Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed into law last Monday, is considered to be the most restrictive social media bill in the United States. It prohibits children under the age of 14 from creating or operating social media accounts, and requires children aged 14 or 15 to have a parent’s consent before they join a social media platform. The bill will also require social media companies to delete existing accounts belonging to children under 14.

Florida now joins 13 other states that have passed bills designed to keep children safe online, and at least another 30 states have bills pending.

I want to tell you why I think this is necessary and important, and why the PTMC is backing efforts across the United States to protect kids online.

In 2004, Facebook was launched. Three years later, in 2007, the first iPhone was released. Today’s teens are the first generation in human history to have the ability to carry around in their pocket more computing power than it took to put a man on the moon; and along with it, a powerfully addictive platform that hijacks and rewires the brain. That’s why in October 2023, Meta was sued by the District of Columbia and 41 states claiming its products are addictive and potentially harmful to children and their mental health.

That alone would be reason enough to restrict teens’ access to social media. But add to that the well-documented evidence that Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, is fueling child sexual exploitation, providing a platform for pedophiles, and enabling sexually explicit and other harmful content that targets teens, especially teen girls.

Snapchat has been used to “lure and sexually exploit children.” The New York Times reported that X/Twitter has struggled to confront its child sexual exploitation problem. Parents are suing Roblox over sexual content on its platform. Children have even tragically resorted to suicide because they have faced sextortion threats online, which the FBI said is increasing and has issued a warning about.

Studies find that teens indicate that social media makes them anxious and depressed. The U.S. Surgeon General has warned about the mental health crisis of America’s youth and the harm social media can have on them. A Pew Research Center report found that “nearly three-quarters of U.S. teens say they feel happy or peaceful when they don’t have their phones with them.”

These social media companies have been given every opportunity to implement stronger controls and protective measures. Instead, they looked for ways to make more money by keeping kids perpetually online. These companies have been hauled before Congress and given warning after warning; but still they’ve done nothing to keep kids safe.

We commend Florida and other states for taking a bold stand for children. Now the U.S. Congress must act at a federal level by passing the Kids Online Safety Act and other child protection measures to further ensure children cannot be marketed to, preyed upon, and used for profit by technology companies.

You can do your part by contacting your representative in Congress and urge them to pass necessary legislation to keep kids safe online.

You can look up your representative by going to https://www.house.gov/representatives/find-your-representative (contact information for their Washington, D.C. and district offices will be on the representative’s webpage) or calling the Capitol switchboard at 202-224-3121.

Tell your elected representatives to prioritize the health and safety of children online by passing a companion bill to the Kids Online Safety Act (KOSA), and report back to us when you’ve done that.

Please act today.

Take Action. Stay Informed.