(Natural News) A coalition of more than 60 advocacy groups called on Congress to enact stronger online protections for young Americans. The coalition also denounced Big Tech and its business model that is “fundamentally at odds” with the well-being of children.
The coalition exhorted lawmakers to “enact a set of policy safeguards to protect children and teens online in a March 22 letter to the leaders of the upper and lower chambers of Congress. The letter was addressed to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA).
The coalition quoted President Joe Biden, who said during his State of the Union Address that “we must hold social media platforms accountable for the national experiment they’re conducting on our children for profit.” It added that Congress “has the ability to make children safer, give parents and caregivers peace of mind and promote an internet that serves children rather than taking advantage of them.”
“We are deeply concerned that young people, who are spending more and more time online, are being targeted in unfair ways by online platforms and apps that take advantage of their developmental vulnerabilities. There is bipartisan agreement that young people deserve meaningful privacy protections – including banning harmful and discriminatory uses of data and enacting regulations that require digital service providers to ensure the health, safety and wellbeing of children and teens in the design of their products and services,” the coalition further stated.
“The current unregulated business model for digital media is fundamentally at odds with children’s wellbeing. Digital platforms are designed to maximize revenue and design choices that increase engagement and facilitate data collection, all of which put children at risk.”
Center for Digital Democracy (CDD) Policy Director Katharina Kopp said young people find themselves “at the epicenter of a pervasive, data-driven marketing system that takes advantage of their inherent developmental vulnerabilities.” Nicole Gill, co-founder and executive director of Accountable Tech, remarked that “it’s long past time for Congress to put a check on Big Tech’s pervasive manipulation of young people’s attention and exploitation of their personal data.” Both CDD and Accountable Tech are signatories of the March 22 letter.
Social media impacts mental health of children and teens
The coalition’s letter to Congress outlined several dangers that come with prolonged exposure on social media. These include “obesity, lower psychological well-being, decreased happiness, decreased quality of sleep [and] depression.” Excessive social media use is also linked to “increases in suicide-related outcomes such as suicidal ideation, plans and attempts.”
According to the letter, 59 percent of American teenagers have reported experiencing bullying on social media, which has been linked to an increase in risky behaviors like smoking and suicidal ideation. (Related: Doctor wants children BANNED from Instagram because of its effects on their mental health.)
The coalition’s letter followed internal company documents revealing that researchers from Meta – which owns Instagram – being aware of the photo-sharing app’s toxic impact on teenage girls.
A March 20 slide presentation reviewed by the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) showed that “32 percent of teen girls said when they felt bad about their bodies, Instagram made them feel worse.” Meaning, comparisons on Instagram can change how young women view and describe themselves.
Another slide from 2019 blatantly admitted Instagram’s impact on teen girls’ body image. “We make body image issues worse for one in three teen girls,” it said.
“Teens blame Instagram for increases in the rate of anxiety and depression,” a third slide pointed out. “This reaction was unprompted and consistent across all groups.”
Justin Ruben of ParentsTogether said: “It’s clear tech companies are more interested in profiting off of vulnerable children than taking steps to prevent them from getting hurt on their platforms. American [children] are facing a mental health crisis, partly fueled by social media, and parents are unable to go it alone against these billion-dollar companies.” Ruben serves as co-founder and co-director of ParentsTogether, which is also a signatory of the letter to Congress.
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