ICYMI: Blackburn Op-Ed: Put The Interests Of Our Children Above Social Media Platforms

July 28, 2023

NASHVILLE, TENN. – U.S. Senator Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) penned an op-ed in the Tennessean underlining the urgent need for the bipartisan Kids Online Safety Act, which passed out of the Senate Commerce Committee yesterday.


Put the interests of our children above social media platforms

Senator Marsha Blackburn


In recent years, social media companies have proven they are unwilling to protect children online.

Every day, kids are exposed to a multitude of online dangers that will only grow more persistent. While many parents and educators knew for years that this was the case, the shift to home-based education during the COVID-19 pandemic provided a wake-up call so many others needed.

Kids as young as 10 years old joined platforms like TikTok and Instagram and spent their days zoning out to an endless stream of content instead of interacting with their friends in the classroom or on the athletic field. 

In response, we’ve seen an outcry from parents, moms in particular, whose families are feeling the harsh reality of social media addiction. By design, big tech platforms encourage endless scrolling, online bullying, body image issues, self-harm, and drug use. The companies’ response to concerned parents and educators? Crickets. Because these tech behemoths have refused to act, Congress must.

This issue transcends political lines, and Americans are broadly in agreement. According to a 
recent poll, 71% of Americans see social media’s impact on children as more negative than positive. Eighty-two percent of Americans want more to be done to enhance transparency, guarantee privacy, and protect children from the detrimental impacts of social media.

This shouldn’t surprise us; the numbers highlighting the effects of these platforms expose a dire mental health crisis.

Almost twice as many teens today agree with phrases such as “I can’t do anything right,” “my life is not useful,” and “I do not enjoy life” as they did a decade ago; this stark increase correlates with the rise of social media. In 2021, 57% of girls reported feeling sad or hopeless, and 30% seriously considered suicide.

Over the past two years, Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Connecticut, and I have met with the mothers of children who died or were seriously harmed because of social media, as well as many young people who survived similar torment.

Their stories are heartbreaking, and they serve as a source of motivation to protect children from the addictive and harmful aspects of the online world. Senator Blumenthal and I have also met with mental health and other medical professionals, tech experts, and faith groups in order to learn more about the negative impact of social media on youth. 

It’s time Big Tech platforms introduce “safety by design.” That is why Senator Blumenthal and I introduced our bipartisan 
Kids Online Safety Act (KOSA). KOSA has the overwhelming support of over one third of the U.S. Senate and the endorsement of more than 240 organizations representing everyone from mental health professionals to teenagers themselves.

The provisions in this bill will force platforms to enable the strongest protections for minor users by default. It will give minors the ability to safeguard their personal data, force companies to turn off addictive product features, and require platforms to comply with a “duty of care” when they target young users.

It will also equip parents and schools with the tools to help kids cope with the online world, identify harmful behaviors, and create a channel to report any harm to minors. Social media platforms will need to conduct an annual independent audit to shed light on the risks their products pose to minors and how they are addressing those harms. 

It’s time to put the interests of our children first, not those of social media platforms. This means recognizing the danger that social media poses to our children and promising that we will do all we can as lawmakers, policy experts, parents, teachers, and friends, to protect them from it.