“No matter how much parents can be aware of it, we don’t have the ability to deal with this on our own. We need help,” said one parent
[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), authors of the Kids Online Safety Act, met with parents of children who died or were harmed because of social media to discuss the urgent need for passage of the bipartisan legislation. The advocates are on Capitol Hill meeting with senators and gathering support for the bill, which will protect children online and hold Big Tech accountable. The legislation now has the support of 39 senators and hundreds of advocacy groups.
“You are having an effect because we now have 39 [supporters]…because you’ve had the courage and strength to come forward and tell your stories,” Blumenthal told the parents. “We’re building momentum that I think will have an effect, and it’s because advocates like you have the guts and the grace to come forward…We are in the midst of a mental health crisis. It hasn’t been created alone by social media, but social media is aggravating it and exploiting it. They know what they’re doing and they’re continuing to do it because it makes money for them…The time is now.”
“It makes a difference,” Blackburn told the parents of their advocacy. “We know that when kids are online, kids are the product and their data is being monetized and their information is being spread…and it really does rob our children of their childhood...You have opened they eyes of so many parents because they hear what you’re saying and then they are looking at what their children are doing.”
“Our kids are dying…and if this gets passed, this is the beginning of making sure what happened to me and to these people, and we are the tip of the iceberg, that we get some control over the harming of kids and the deaths of children related to social media,” said Christine McComas, who lost her daughter Grace to suicide after facing cyber-abuse and bullying. “This has been ten years for me…it was clear to me that social media was a problem back then, but now we know it is from the research that has been done, the Surgeon General’s report, the CDC…and nothing has changed significantly to protect our children...It was needed yesterday. It was needed five years ago. It was needed ten years ago. But get it done now.”
“I searched for weeks looking for how to report this. I could not find a number for Snapchat or Instagram. I could not find anything. And when I did finally find something weeks later, I reported it and they never got back to me…and in the meantime my child died,” said Erin Popolo, who lost her daughter Emily to suicide after she faced bullying at school and online. “This is the price that we are paying, and we shouldn’t have to pay this price because all these children should still be here.”
My daughter…will forever be ten-years-old,” said Tawainna Anderson, who lost her daughter to the “Blackout Challenge” on TikTok after it was suggested to her on her For You page. “Nylah was a shining star…They sent this to her at just ten years old…Next Saturday July 1st is Nylah’s twelfth birthday and she has a twin brother who will turn twelve, and she will forever be ten-years-old.”
“No matter how much parents can be aware of it, we don’t have the ability to deal with this on our own. We need help and we need social media companies to be responsible,” said Deb Schmill, whose daughter Becca was cyberbullied and died of fentanyl poisoning from drugs purchased from a dealer on Facebook.
The Kids Online Safety Act provides young people and parents with the tools, safeguards, and transparency they need to protect against online harms. The bill requires social media platforms to put the well-being of children first, ensuring an environment that is safe by default. The legislation also requires independent audits by experts and academic researchers to ensure that social media platforms are taking meaningful steps to address risks to kids.
The legislation was introduced following reporting and a series of five subcommittee hearings led by Blumenthal and Blackburn with social media companies and advocates on the repeated failures by tech giants to protect kids on their platforms and about the dangers kids face online. In July 2022, the Kids Online Safety Act passed the Commerce Committee on a unanimous, 28-0 vote.