Common Sense Applauds Landmark Legislation to Protect Kids on Online Media Platforms

Current Regulations Are Outdated and Do Not Adequately Address Dramatic Changes in Children's Media
Common Sense Media
Thursday, March 5, 2020

SAN FRANCISCO, March 5, 2020—Common Sense Media strongly supports new legislation that would create vital protections on popular media platforms, where children spend many of their waking hours. The Kids Internet Design and Safety (KIDS) Act was introduced today by Senator Edward Markey (D-Mass.), who has been a leader for decades in regulating the safety and quality of children's media. 

"The current media environment for kids is toxic because our laws are insufficient and do not extend to the digital landscape we are living in," said James P. Steyer, CEO and founder of Common Sense. "We need comprehensive protections for kids that cover them from the television to social media and beyond, and that address the commercialization and manipulative tactics companies use to keep kids glued to their devices. We commend Senator Markey for leading the way on prioritizing the well-being of kids and urge Congress to pass the KIDS Act as quickly as possible."

Modern rules are needed in an age when the big disconnect between existing laws and today's digital world allow addictive and manipulative design and for blatant commercial content and disturbing material with violence, self-harm, and obscenity to be served up to kids. While some media, like television, has rules under the Children's Television Act of 1990, the online space is largely a free-for-all.

Senator Markey introduced the legislation with Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.). The KIDS Act would create rules covering all media platforms to:

  • Stop manipulative and damaging design features that keep kids glued to the screen, getting them to share data and make online purchases. 

  • Limit marketing and commercialization by creating rules to limit the method and content of ads that appear in front of kids. 

  • Prevent the amplification of harmful content by establishing rules to address the use of algorithms that push extreme content in front of kids.

  • Require platforms to provide parents with clear guidance on kid-healthy content.

  • Create a grant program to support positive content creation. 

  • Require transparency and strong enforcement, designating the Federal Trade Commission to enforce the law.

Research by Common Sense shows that there has been a dramatic shift in the viewing habits of kids on online platforms and that tech use is aging down. Ninety-eight percent of kids under age 8 have access to a mobile device at home, and a majority have their own smartphone by the time they are 11. Kids and teens are spending a large chunk of their day on screens, with 8- to 12-year-olds now averaging just under five hours of screen media a day and teens viewing about seven and a half hours daily -- not including use of screens at school or the rapidly growing use of computers for homework. 

“Today, kids’ faces are increasingly covered in the glow of their screens, and it’s time to face the chilling reality that some websites and apps today are built in ways that harm children,” said Senator Markey, a member of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee. “Powerful companies push kids to buy products at every turn online, and top platforms are saturated with disturbing content that no kid should ever be exposed to. As a society, we’re playing catch up to the serious risks to kids online, and Congress has a responsibility to say loud and clear that Big Tech needs to get serious about the wellbeing of children and teens.”

Common Sense worked with Senator Markey and other child advocates to develop the KIDS Act to improve the media ecosystem for kids online and to ensure that kids are protected from manipulative design that pushes toxic content in front of kids. Senator Markey and Common Sense have worked together for more than a decade to protect kids in today's 24/7 media and tech world, including protecting privacy online, everywhere from home (COPPA) to schools (FERPA) to in between (connected devices), and advocating for strong protections in children's media and classrooms equipped with access to modern technology. Senator Markey and Common Sense have also led the call for the Children and Media Research Advancement (CAMRA) Act , a federal bill that will authorize funding to establish a research program conducted and supported by the National Institutes of Health to study media and tech’s impact on the health and well-being of kids.

 

###

 

About Common Sense

Common Sense is the nation's leading nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the lives of kids and families by providing the trustworthy information, education, and independent voice they need to thrive in the 21st century. Learn more at commonsense.org.

 

Press contacts:

Lisa Cohen
[email protected]
(310) 395-2544    

Cassandra Matter
[email protected]
(408) 960-5115

Tanya Schevitz            
[email protected]                     
(415) 298-5532