New legislation is being introduced looking to allow parents to sue big tech companies for addicting children.
Social media is addicting. While that statement may be subjective, it’s something that all parents of younger generations can surely agree on. According to reports from the Kaiser Family Foundation, kids now spend on average a startling 7.5 hours a day in front of screens. That’s more time spent on tech than inside classrooms. The majority of parents, educators, physicians, and subject matter experts all conclusively agree that the advancement in technologies has only furthered this addiction. And now, some states, and even the federal government, are looking to crack down on big tech companies for addicting children.
In California, legislators are making strides to propose new legislation that would hold big tech companies accountable for their toll on children’s mental health and a claim that they are addicting children knowingly. Bill AB2408, known as the Social Media Platform Duty to Children Act, was advanced last week in the California Assembly by a bipartisan pair of lawmakers. The bill received full support from the Children’s Advocacy Institute.
The California bill would allow parents to sue big tech companies that don’t take steps to avoid addicting children to their platforms. As the first of its kind in the nation, the bill seeks to restrain big tech companies from using algorithmic tools that search for children’s data to generate recommendations. These techniques are used to keep children coming back to their platforms. The bill’s text reads so that it can hold big tech companies accountable for features that are known to be addicting to children. The legislation seeks penalties of up to $25,000 per child or damages that could include $1,000 or more per child in a class-action suit.
During the same time that the Golden State was introducing legislation aimed at big tech companies for addicting children, another state also introduced a similar bill. In Minnesota, bill HF 3724 was voted ahead in a state committee that approved the legislation. Under this proposed law, the state would prohibit social media platforms from using algorithms to recommend content to anyone under the age of 18. The bill now heads to the state’s House Judiciary Finance and Civil Law Committee for a vote on March 22. If passed, big tech companies could be liable for damages and a civil penalty of $1,000 for each violation.
While the two states are setting high pedestals paving the way for more states to join in the mission to restrict tech companies from addicting children, some don’t think the laws will be able to fully eradicate the problem in its tracks. Abbey Stemler, an associate professor of business law and ethics at Indiana University who specializes in internet law, regulatory theory, and Big Tech said via Yahoo News that these types of laws are too vague. Moreover, she said that they wouldn’t hold up in a courtroom.
But there is hope for parents yet, as even the Federal Government is making strides to further hinder big tech’s ability to keep addicting children. In February, senators introduced the Kids Online Safety Act. The legislation also seeks to disable addictive aspects of social media platforms by requiring social media platforms to default to opt-out options of algorithmic data collecting.
The push to rein in big tech companies’ free range on data collection and addictive manners is coming from not just parents, but all walks of life. And while social media addiction affects everyone, the rate among children is alarming. In young children, tech addiction can cause irregular sleep patterns, attention problems, increased anxiety, and poor academic performance. There is an obvious need to address this growing issue, and hopefully, state and federal support will advance the consequences imposed on companies found guilty of addicting children.