Bills to Protect Kids on Social Media Pass: What Parents Need to Know

Bills to Protect Kids on Social Media Pass: What Parents Need to Know
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Bills to Protect Kids on Social Media Passes: What Parents Need to Know

Social media especially when it concerns kids is a huge concern for parents. Thankfully, the Governor of  New York is making huge strides to make social media a little safer for kids going forward with two nation-leading bills that  passed on June 7th in New York State. 

The Stop Addictive Feeds Exploitation (SAFE) for Kids Act will restrict kids’ access to addictive feeds on social media, and the New York Child Data Protection Act will keep kids’ personal data safe. 

“New York is leading the nation to protect our kids from addictive social media feeds and shield their personal data from predatory companies,” Governor Kathy Hochul said of the legislation passing. “Together, we’ve taken a historic step forward in our efforts to address the youth mental health crisis and create a safer digital environment for young people.”

This legislation is the first of its kind in the United States, and New York State Attorney General Letitia James hopes other states are close behind in passing similar legislation. 

“New York is once again leading the nation, and I hope other states will follow suit and pass legislation to protect children and put their mental health above big tech companies’ profits,” James said. 

Here’s what you need to know about these two bills and what they mean for kids on social media. 

Psst… Looking for more ways to keep social media safe for kids? Here’s how you can make social media safer for kids and teens.

The SAFE for Kids Act

The SAFE for Kids Act primarily deals with kids’ access to addictive feeds on social media. It will require social media companies to restrict addictive feeds for users under 18 on their platforms. Minors will not receive addictive feeds without parental consent. 

Addictive feeds, as defined by the bill, involve learning algorithms that curate content based on things like content they “like”, other users they follow and even how long they have spent looking at particular content. 

“These feeds make predictions about interests, mood, and other factors related to what is most likely to keep users engaged for as long as possible, creating a feed tailor-made to keep each user on the platform for longer periods,” the bill reads. “Today these addictive feeds have become the primary way that people experience social media.” 

The bill goes on to explain that addictive feeds have had a demonstrably negative impact on children and teenagers. They cause minors to spend more time on social media than they typically would, which is typically linked to a number of mental health issues

Under the SAFE for Kids Act, social media companies are prohibited from providing children under 18 with addictive feeds without parental consent. Minors will still be able to view non-addictive feeds on social media (feeds listed in chronological order, for example) and can still access all content available on the platform. 

Additionally, the SAFE for Kids Act calls for the establishment of acceptable age verification and parental consent methods, which will be determined by the Office of the Attorney General once the legislation is enacted. 

The New York Child Data Protection Act

The New York Child Data Protection Act will prohibit websites collecting, using, sharing and selling personal data of minors without informed consent or unless it is strictly necessary for the purpose of the website. 

“Children should be able to freely experience the online world without concern of omnipresent monitoring and recording,” the justification for the bill reads. “They should be free to be children, without needing to second guess the long-term consequences of every decision.” 

Under the New York Child Data Protection Act, digital services will only be able to use minor’s data in ways that are strictly necessary to provide the service and they will be prohibited from selling the data without informed consent from the user or the user’s parents, in the cases of children under 13. 

Additionally, digital platforms that use third-party service providers must contractually restrict said providers from minors’ data outside of specified purposes. 

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