What Are Lawmakers Doing to Protect Kids Online?

By Rebecca Paredes
May 8, 2024
Shot of Capitol Hill

Welcome to Parent Pixels, a parenting newsletter filled with practical advice, news, and resources to support you and your kids in the digital age. This week:

  • Does it feel like your child is texting in a different language? Save this guide to some of the most common slang and emojis kids are using today, including ones that could mean they’re up to trouble.
  • 62% of parents feel burned out by parenting, according to a new survey by Ohio State University. 
  • KOSA. PATA. COPPA 2.0. No, this isn’t Wordle — we’re breaking down a few notable pieces of child online safety legislation currently under consideration in Congress.

Digital Parenting

What is Congress doing to keep kids safe online?

Before we talk about child online safety legislation, let’s talk about seat belts. 

In the 1980s, states began implementing laws requiring people to wear seat belts in cars. Despite studies from the 1950s demonstrating that seat belts save lives, it wasn’t until these laws were implemented that buckling up became routine. You enter a car, you fasten your seat belt. It’s a simple safety step that’s also mandated by law.

However, between the 1950s and 1980s, there was a time when people knew that seat belts were protective — but they didn’t necessarily use them. Later, laws were passed because safety protections can help save lives.

A similar discussion is happening today with social media. A growing body of research points to social media’s negative effects on kids, ranging from their well-being to their brain development. But there are no national regulations to safeguard children on social media, and those that are passed at the state level face significant legal pushback from major tech companies.

In Congress, several pieces of legislation that impact children online are currently under discussion. Let’s look at a few of them making headway this legislative session:

Kids Online Safety Act (KOSA): Sets new safety standards for social media companies and holds them accountable for protecting minors. Users would also be allowed to opt-out of addictive design features, such as algorithm-based recommendations, infinite scrolling, and notifications. The bill awaits vote in the Senate and has been introduced in the House.

Children and Teens’ Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA 2.0): Updates the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). This measure would make it illegal for websites to collect data on children under the age of 16, outlaw marketing specifically aimed at kids, and allow parents to erase their kids’ information on websites. The bill awaits vote in the Senate.

Sammy’s Law: Would require social media companies to integrate with child safety software, making it easier for parents to supervise their children’s online activities. The bill is currently in the House subcommittee on Innovation, Data, and Commerce.

Platform Accountability and Transparency Act (PATA): Provides protected ways for researchers to study data from big internet companies, focusing on how these platforms impact society. PATA would make it clearer how online platforms manage children's data and the effects of their algorithms. The bill was read twice in the Senate and referred to committee. 

Also worth noting is the American Privacy Rights Act (APRA), a significant bipartisan measure yet to reach committee. It would establish national privacy and security standards, requiring transparent data usage and giving consumers, particularly children, greater control over their personal information.

In the future, we may look back at this period and wonder how we didn’t have stricter measures in place to protect kids online — just like that period when we didn’t wear seat belts. You can talk to lawmakers about the importance of children’s online safety legislation. To find your representative, go to congress.gov/members/find-your-member.

Parent Pixels is a biweekly newsletter filled with practical advice, news, and resources to support you and your kids in the digital age. Want this newsletter delivered to your inbox a day early? Subscribe here.

Practical Parenting Tips

Understanding slang and secret codes in your child’s texts

You know you should monitor your child’s texts, but actually understanding their messages is a whole other story. Like previous generations of kids, Gen Z and Gen Alpha use slang to put their own spin on the way they communicate. We break down what it all means, bruh.

9 mistakes parents make with text message monitoring

While it’s responsible to monitor your child’s text messages, that doesn’t mean anything goes. Here are some of the top mistakes parents make when monitoring their child’s texts so you can avoid making them yourself. 

Tech Talks With Your Child

How will you check in with your child this week? Save these conversation-starters for your next tech check-in. 

  1. Do you ever have trouble sleeping because you’re on your phone before bed? 
  2. How do you feel when you get a lot of notifications on your phone?
  3. I’d like to implement a no-phone rule at the dinner table so we can be more present with each other. What do you think about that?
  4. Is there anything cool you saw online that you want to try this week, like a recipe or a new place to visit?
  5. Let’s talk about online privacy best practices. Do you use the same password for multiple accounts, or do you use different passwords?

What’s Catching Our Eye

📵 Following a smartphone ban in Norway schools, middle school kids report feeling mentally healthier and performing better academically. After three years of the policy, girls’ visits to mental health professionals decreased by 60%, and both boys and girls experienced 43–46% less bullying.

🕯️ According to a new survey by Ohio State University, a majority of parents experience isolation, loneliness, and burnout from the demands of parenthood. A whopping 62% feel burned out by their responsibilities as a parent. Parental burnout researcher Kate Gawlik, DNP, stressed the need for self-care and the value of connection, encouraging parents to find local parent groups.

🐤🤖 Did you know? BrightCanary features an AI chatbot called Ask the Canary: an easy way to anonymously get answers to your toughest parenting questions. Find it in the BrightCanary app.

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