HALL MONITOR: “YES” on the Kids Online Safety Act (U.S. Senate Bill 1409)

Name: U.S. Senate Bill 1409, Kids Online Safety Act

Summary: Would ensure that social media platforms and public entities—including public schools—take necessary precautions to keep children safe while online. 

Status: Introduced in the Senate

Bill Sponsor: Senators Richard Blumenthal (D., CT) and Marsha Blackburn (R., TN). Numerous cosponsors, listed here

Bill Breakdown: 

Senate Bill 1409 would set mandated parameters for social media platforms to protect minor children from data exposure, abuse, and exploitation. It would also ensure that social media platforms curb the risks of mental health disorders in teenagers, such as anxiety and depression, that studies have shown are linked to increased social media usage. 

The bill would ensure that social media platforms protect minors’ data, including location data, from third parties. It would further ensure that social media platforms give parents the necessary tools to help protect their children online, such as the ability to change a minor child’s privacy settings and restrict purchasing capabilities. 

Social media platforms would be required to submit annual reports on minors’ usage of their platforms, including the frequency in which minors access the platform and the time spent using it. The bill would also require social media sites to provide options to disable addictive features and algorithmic recommendations, and default to the strongest restrictions on minors’ accounts. 

Senate Bill 1409 would require the Department of Education to provide directives to schools on how to implement proper safety protocols for students while using applications, websites, and other online platforms in schools.  

Why does PDE Action support this bill? 

A recent study found that 96 percent of web applications used in school settings expose student data to third parties. Further, hackers have increasingly targeted schools and have held sensitive student data hostage for ransom payments. 

It’s very clear that our laws have not yet caught up to the threats that social media platforms and other online outlets pose to children. Further, we know that parents are concerned about the content their children are being exposed to online. Our partner organization, Parents Defending Education, conducted a survey that found that 60 percent of parents believe social media is negatively impacting their children. 

PDE Action applauds this bipartisan effort to engage parents, social media platforms, and state and federal leaders in the effort to protect children from online threats.