If parents are concerned about their child’s addiction to social media, they may soon have the ability to sue them. California State Assemblymember Jordan Cunningham (R-San Luis Obispo), and Assemblymember Buffy Wicks, (D-Oakland) introduced a bipartisan bill that would enable parents to sue social networking companies for their children. This bill passed unanimously the Assembly Judiciary Committee earlier this week.
Assembly Bill 2408, if passed into law would give parents the right to sue social networks companies for harming their children through a social media addiction. This bill is called the “Social Media Platform Duty to Children Act”. It outlines safe harbors to protect social media platforms from liability, provided that they identify and eliminate addictive elements within the specified time frame.
Next, the bill will head to the Assembly Floor where it will then be discussed later in this month.
“Social media companies’ own research shows how addictive their platforms are for kids – and there’s nothing parents can do to stop it,” said Cunningham. “If you’re going to create a product for children, you need to design it in a way that doesn’t result in some of those kids becoming addicted and having to seek psychiatric care. We propose that social media companies change their methods or they will be held responsible for any addictions caused by their products.
Companies earning less than $100 million annually would be exempt from the bill. Businesses found to be in violation of the bill could face civil sanctions up to $25,000 for each violation and $250,000 per violation if done intentionally.
Larissa May (founder of #HalfTheStory), a non-profit organization that promotes social media, stated, “Social Media is a Lifeline for the Next Generation.”
Recently, she testified in support of the bill before the Assembly Judiciary Committee located at the State Capitol.
In an email exchange, May explained that “young minds” are more susceptible to weaponized algorithms because their prefrontal cortex (the place of executive function control and decision-making) has not been fully developed. “At a young age, their neurochemistry is being disrupted by technology, and quite frankly, it’s moving faster than the human mind. But it doesn’t have be like this.
May stated that abstinence from technology is not a good idea for teenagers and can sometimes make it worse. May stated that there are major misunderstandings around tech and wellness, which supports the need for AB2408.
May stated, “Social Media can be a coping tool.” Social media is a coping mechanism for teens. They use it to escape daily challenges and self-soothe. Teens who spend more time on social media are more vulnerable to emotional distress and the temptations offered by the endless games that we call “social media”
Some experts suggest turning off your device to fix the issue, but others point out that it is not possible to turn off all of your screen time.
It is not possible to measure social media usage through the quantity of followers. May stated that social media is similar to zero-calorie candy. This makes it more dangerous than something with higher calories. While many teens have positive experiences with technology, it is important that our platforms are held responsible for creating safer environments for all our youth, particularly the most vulnerable.
May said that although this policy may not resolve all of the youth problems, it will make infrastructure safer. “We would not take our children across an insecure bridge. We shouldn’t also send them to platforms that use predatory algorithms. This crisis will not end unless our society considers mental health the same as physical health. Tech companies must be held responsible for online time spent by teens.
You could wonder if the social media sites are to blame for the excessive usage by the younger generation.
Roger Entner, a technology analyst at Recon Analytics said that while social media companies may be to blame for many things, parents have a responsibility to their children as well. There are many apps that allow parents to restrict the activities of their children on mobile devices.