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A new bill aims to loosen the grip Instagram has on your kids

Digital Wellbeing Bedtime Mode
Digital Wellbeing Bedtime Mode (Image credit: Andrew Myrick / Android Central)

What you need to know

  • The Senate has introduced a bipartisan bill to improve child safety online.
  • The Kids Online Safety Act will give children more control over their social media information as well as the ability to turn off "addictive product features."
  • It also seeks to hold social media platforms accountable for the online safety of minors.

A bombshell report last year shed light on the toxic effects social media sites have on teens, prompting some Senators to look into those platforms' insufficient efforts to protect children from harm. On Wednesday, after five subcommittee hearings, the Senate introduced the Kids Online Safety Act.

Senators Richard Blumenthal and Marsha Blackburn have proposed a new bill that addresses various online threats to children and provides additional safeguards for minor users. It essentially gives users under the age of 16 more control over the personal information they provide to various social media platforms when they sign up.

Social media companies such as Meta and TikTok, among others, will be required to provide users with the option to disable features described in the bill as "addictive," as well as the ability to opt out of algorithmic recommendations. The bill requires internet platforms to enable the "strongest settings" for these capabilities by default.

Blackburn said in a press release:

In hearings over the last year, Senator Blumenthal and I have heard countless stories of physical and emotional damage affecting young users, and Big Tech's unwillingness to change. The Kids Online Safety Act will address those harms by setting necessary safety guiderails for online platforms to follow that will require transparency and give parents more peace of mind.

For parents, the bill wants to enforce "new controls to help support their children and identify harmful behaviors." Social media services will also need to create a dedicated channel through which parents and children can easily report online harms.

Social giants will be held legally liable for protecting minors from inappropriate content including suicide, eating disorders, sexual exploitation, alcohol and gambling. These companies must also audit their compliance annually and review child safety risks, while giving academic and public interest organizations access to their datasets for child safety research.

While there are various methods already in place to keep your kids safe on the web, the new legislation will hold social media platforms accountable for mitigating these harms, when and if it becomes a law.

Jay Bonggolto always keeps a nose for news. He is a tech journalist based in the Philippines who has been writing about consumer tech for the past six years and has been using various Android phones since falling in love with Jelly Bean. When he's not writing, he likes to spend time outside, stealing scenes with his phone camera.