“We must hold social media platforms accountable for the national experiment they’re conducting on our children for profit,” Biden said. “It’s time to strengthen privacy protections, ban targeted advertising to children, demand tech companies stop collecting personal data on our children.”
The focus on social media’s impacts on children is part of a broader mental health push that Biden is championing. Children’s advocates have criticized the platforms for using what they see as addictive design choices that keep kids on social media and expose them to potentially harmful content, such as posts that may encourage eating disorders.
One of the White House’s guests at the speech was Frances Haugen, a former employee of
Tech companies including
A new bill, (S. 3663), from Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) would seek to safeguard children online by making social media platforms liable for harms to minors and disabling by default addictive features like autoplay.
A Blackburn spokesperson said they look forward to moving the bill through Congress.
“We appreciate that the White House has come to the table and recognized that children are facing an unprecedented mental health crisis—exacerbated by Covid,” the spokesperson said.
An earlier bill, (S. 1628), from Sen. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) and Bill Cassidy (R-La.) would extend federal children’s privacy protections to teenagers.
Markey’s office has discussed this bill and others aimed at children’s digital data with the White House, according to a spokesperson, though so far lawmakers haven’t made moves to advance the measures.
Biden’s reference to social media’s impact on kids in his speech is “a really good sign” that increases the chances of seeing Congress act on such legislation, said Josh Golin, executive director of children’s advocacy nonprofit Fairplay.
“It’s important not only that the president is singling out the role of social media in our mental health crisis but that he is pointing to policy solutions,” Golin said.
The White House said Biden’s mental health initiative includes a budget proposal to dedicate at least $5 million toward research on social media’s harms, as well as potential interventions to address them.
The Department of Health and Human Services also plans to launch a national Center of Excellence on Social Media and Mental Wellness to develop and disseminate guidance on the impacts of adolescent social media use, the White House said.