“How Washington is Prioritizing Social Media to Safeguard Children’s Mental Health”

# Bipartisan Efforts in Congress Aim to Protect Young People’s Mental Health

## Introduction
In a rare display of bipartisan cooperation, lawmakers in Congress are coming together to address the mental health crisis among young people. This collaborative effort involves a series of bills aimed at regulating technology companies, particularly social media platforms. The U.S. surgeon general has also issued warnings about the detrimental effects of these platforms on the mental well-being of minors. With the alarming increase in violence, sadness, and suicide risk among teen girls, lawmakers are taking action to protect the younger generation.

## Surgeon General’s Call for Action
Dr. Vivek Murthy, the U.S. surgeon general, issued a public health advisory in May, urging tech companies and lawmakers to take immediate action to safeguard children’s mental health. He highlighted the negative impact of social media use on the youth of the country. This call for action has further fueled lawmakers’ determination to address the growing mental health crisis, especially among young people.

## Alarming Statistics
A report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in February revealed record-high levels of violence, sadness, and suicide risk among teen girls. Nearly 3 in 5 girls reported persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness in 2021, representing a staggering 60% increase compared to the past decade. These alarming statistics emphasize the urgent need for intervention and support for young people’s mental health.

## Holding Tech Companies Accountable
Lawmakers are actively seeking ways to hold social media companies accountable for their impact on young people’s mental health. However, there is a lack of consensus on the most effective approach. While some bills aim to ban minors from using social media platforms, others focus on content moderation and imposing fines on tech companies. The latter approach has gained more support, as it addresses the need for changes in how these platforms interact with young people.

### Critics of Banning Minors from Social Media
Critics argue that bills aiming to keep kids off social media are not realistic solutions. Josh Golin, the executive director of the children’s safety group Fairplay, believes that such bills shift the responsibility back to parents and young people. Instead, he advocates for legislation that changes how social media platforms engage with young users.

### The Kids Online Safety Act (KOSA)
The Kids Online Safety Act, also known as KOSA, is a bipartisan bill reintroduced by Sens. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.). This bill has garnered support from children’s advocacy groups. KOSA aims to provide families with the necessary tools, safeguards, and transparency to protect children’s health and well-being online. The bill requires social media platforms to prioritize children’s interests and implement measures such as protecting minors’ information, disabling addictive product features, and allowing opt-outs from algorithmic recommendations.

### The Children and Teens’ Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA 2.0)
Advocates, including Josh Golin, also support the Children and Teens’ Online Privacy Protection Act, also known as COPPA 2.0. This bill seeks to update current online data privacy rules to combat the youth mental health crisis. COPPA 2.0 aims to outlaw practices that target minors through algorithms and toxic content. It includes provisions to ban targeted advertising to minors, allow users to eliminate personal information of minors, and establish a “Digital Marketing Bill of Rights for Teens” to limit the collection of personal information of teenagers.

## Limitations of Congressional Action
Despite the widespread support for congressional action, some parents and educators remain skeptical about its effectiveness. Max Bean, a high school teacher from Chicago, believes that addressing harmful content and data privacy alone will not solve the problem. He emphasizes the need for a societal shift in how social media is used and the importance of face-to-face interaction. While Congress taking action is seen as a positive step, it is not viewed as a comprehensive solution.

### Congress as the First Step
Max Bean and Kailan Carr, a mother from Bakersfield, California, share the belief that Congress has a role to play in holding tech companies accountable. However, they both stress the need for society as a whole to reduce the emphasis placed on social media. They see Congress’s action as a catalyst for change and hope that it will encourage individuals and communities to take further steps in addressing the harmful impacts of social media.

In conclusion, the bipartisan accord in Congress to protect young people’s mental health through regulating technology companies is a significant step forward. Efforts to hold social media platforms accountable and prioritize children’s well-being are gaining momentum. While there are differing opinions on the best approach, the urgent need to address the mental health crisis among youth remains a top priority.

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