Wasserman Schultz, Carter, Schrier, Miller-Meeks Introduce Social Media Child Safety Bill
All parents worry about what their child is seeing or receiving on social media. As the mother of three children who grew up with the world at their fingertips, I constantly worried about what my children were exposed to online, on social media, and through apps that profit from sharing messages which are intentionally designed to disappear without a trace. I am proud to introduce bipartisan legislation to give parents a more balanced level of access to supervise and manage their kid's social media and online presence during the most vulnerable stages of a child’s life.
Washington, DC – Today, U.S. Representatives Debbie Wasserman Schultz (FL-25), Earl “Buddy” Carter (GA-01), Kim Schrier (WA-08), and Mariannette Miller-Meeks (IA-01) announced the introduction of Sammy’s Law, critical child safety legislation which would help parents be better informed about a child’s dangerous interactions on social media, and fills in critical access and awareness gaps when children face problems on popular platforms. Watch the entire press conference here.
The bill is named after Sammy Chapman, who family and friends described as a sweet, funny, curious A-Student. His parents worked hard to keep him away from danger but had no idea drug dealers stalked children via social media. On February 7, 2021, a seller reached out to Sammy on social media and delivered drugs to him at home, which tragically, were poisoned with a lethal dose of the opioid fentanyl. Sammy, aged 16, lost his life that day.
“All parents worry about what their child is seeing or receiving on social media. As the mother of three children who grew up with the world at their fingertips, I constantly worried about what my children were exposed to online, on social media, and through apps that profit from sharing messages which are intentionally designed to disappear without a trace,” said Congresswoman Wasserman Schultz. “I am proud to introduce bipartisan legislation to give parents a more balanced level of access to supervise and manage their kid's social media and online presence during the most vulnerable stages of a child’s life.”
“Parents have the right to know when their child is engaging in dangerous online activity,” said Congressman Carter. “There are sick, evil people who will prey on our youth to make a quick buck by selling illicit, sometimes fentanyl-laced, drugs. Sammy’s life was worth living and this bill will help parents get the information they need to keep their children safe.”
“Parents should have every tool at their disposal to keep their children safe. With children spending more and more time online, it's become imperative for parents to know if and when their kids are exposed to dangerous activity online," said Congresswoman Schrier. "Social media platforms are filled with harmful content for children, and this bill directly addresses this issue by empowering families. As a mother and a pediatrician, the health and well-being of our children is always top of mind, which is why I'm incredibly proud to support this legislation.”
Millions of children and teenagers are susceptible to the adverse effects of social media every day,” said Congresswoman Miller-Meeks, M.D. “I am proud to join my colleagues on Sammy’s Law, a commonsense solution that would give parents the freedom to safeguard their children’s online presence, especially in this ever-changing social media landscape. This legislation gives parents options for third-party safety apps that can alert them when dangerous content is shared with their children and provide mental health resources for children if needed.”
Sammy was one of the millions of young victims of social media-related dangers this past year. According to numerous studies, about 46 percent of students experience Cyberbullying, with victims 2.6 times more likely to attempt suicide. In addition to suicide, self-harm increases the more time that children spend on social media. It also leads to an increase in psychological distress and suicidal ideation in depressed adolescents. About 43% of young adults recently reported seeing self-harm content on Instagram, and about 32 indicated they performed the same or similar behavior as a consequence. On top of these dangers, trafficking occurs on platforms, as many child sex crimes now originate on social media sites where predator learn about victims’ likes and habits.
This legislation would create a parental right to know about dangerous or concerning interactions children under the age of 17 may have online. Social media companies would be required to provide access to data pertaining to a parent’s child through registered third-party safety apps. These apps can provide alerts to parents when dangerous content is shared through children’s social media accounts, enabling life-saving interventions at critical moments. For example, if a child is expressing thoughts of suicide via social media, then a parent, who has received an alert through a third-party safety app, can immediately provide mental health support. We know from the data that these alerts have already protected millions of children.
“We extend our deepest gratitude for the bold, bipartisan leadership shown today by Reps. Wasserman Schultz, Carter, Schrier, and Miller-Meeks in introducing Sammy's Law.” said Marc Berkman, CEO of the Organization for Social Media Safety. “It is unconscionable that some social media platforms block third-party safety software, a proven effective intervention, while so many children continue to be severely harmed, even killed, yearly in using those social media platforms. We call on Congress to expeditiously pass Sammy's Law, bipartisan common-sense legislation that will finally give parents the choice to use third-party safety software to protect their children.”
“If social media platforms gave our family the choice to use third-party safety software, Sammy might still be alive.” said Dr. Lauran Berman and Sam Chapman, parents of Sammy Chapman. “We urge Congress to pass this vital legislation without delay to protect the millions of children at risk on social media every day.
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