Child Advocacy Organizations Pledge Support for Landmark California Bill That Would Protect Kids from Most Common and Dangerous Online Harms
A first-in-the-nation California bill would permit families to hold social media companies liable for causing children to die from fentanyl overdoses, choking challenges, and suicide, to develop eating disorders, and to become addicted to social media
SACRAMENTO, Feb. 2, 2023—Today, a coalition of child advocacy organizations announced support for SB 287, landmark legislation that would make it easier for families to hold social media companies liable when they knowingly or negligently permit children to buy fentanyl, facilitate their deaths by suicide or dangerous viral challenges such as the "choking" challenge, to develop eating disorders, or to become addicted to the platforms. The bill comes at a time when many child development experts agree that social media is contributing to an unprecedented mental health crisis among children and teens. Research shows that girls are particularly at risk.
The child advocacy coalition announcing support on the bill's day of introduction includes Common Sense Media, Children's Advocacy Institute at the University of San Diego School of Law, Jewish Family and Children's Services, #HalfTheStory, and the American Association of University Women.
"We thank Senator Skinner for introducing this vital bill to protect California's children from serious online harms," said James P. Steyer, founder and CEO of Common Sense Media. "Large social media companies must be held accountable for the addictive design features they use to keep kids and teens using their products longer than is healthy for them to do so, and for facilitating spaces where young people are targeted with unhealthy content and products, including fentanyl, which puts their lives at risk. This is one of the most important tech policy bills that will come before the legislature this year, and lawmakers in Sacramento should pass it overwhelmingly."
"As documented over and over, a tiny handful of rich and powerful companies are knowingly and carelessly causing an unprecedented number of our children—just children!—to die by taking their own lives, by fentanyl overdoses, from choking challenges, from addiction, and causing life-altering child anguish on a scale never before seen," said Ed Howard, senior counsel at Children's Advocacy Institute. "What these companies are doing knowingly or negligently just to make even more money is morally repugnant, offending every notion of human decency, and it needs to stop—now."
"Social media can provide a valuable means of connecting young people, but can also cause significant harm," said Dr. Sarita Patel, child and adolescent psychiatrist at Jewish Family and Children's Services. "It is imperative that we address the role that social media plays in contributing to specific psychiatric disorders, including eating disorders, suicidal ideation and self-harm, and substance abuse."
"We have condoms for sex and cars with seat belts… yet we have no standard of safety for the place where the average American teen is spending eight hours a day," said Larissa May, founder of #HalfTheStory. "The Digital Rights Revolution is unfolding before our eyes and the world is counting on California to lead the charge and save the next generation."
According to recent research, 38% of tweens and 84% of teens use social media. Meta, the owner of Facebook and Instagram, conducted its own internal research that revealed that 6% of American users traced the desire to kill themselves to Instagram, while 1 in 3 girls said the platform made their body image issues worse.
Read Senator Nancy Skinner's full press release here.