Two New Pieces of Legislation to Add Protections for Minors on Social Media

J.M. Lesinski
A shot of homes leading into a residential neighborhood in Boston, New York.Photo byPhoto by J.M. Lesinski

New York State Governor Kathy Hochul recently celebrated the passage of two new pieces of legislation aimed at regulating social media usage among minors by prohibiting the access of addictive feeds without parental consent and limiting what data is collected from children online.

“Our kids are in crisis, and the adults in the room need to step up,” Hochul stated of the legislation. “The statistics are extraordinarily disturbing: teen suicide rates are spiking, and diagnoses of anxiety and depression are surging. It's critical we all stand together to address the youth mental health crisis, and I'm proud to partner with Attorney General James, Senator Gounardes and Assemblymember Rozic to fight for our kids' future."

The first bill, the Stop Addictive Feeds Exploitation (SAFE) for Kids Act, requires social media companies to restrict those features deemed most addictive for young users on their platforms. In order to fully address this issue, the legislation officially will provide users under 18 a default chronological feed from users they already follow – the same way that social media feeds worked before the introduction of ‘addictive’ feeds. 

“Social media platforms are fueling a national youth mental health crisis that is harming children’s wellbeing and safety,” remarked Attorney General Letitia James of the legislation. “Young New Yorkers are struggling with record levels of anxiety and depression, and social media companies that use addictive features to keep minors on their platforms longer are largely to blame. This legislation will help tackle the risks of social media affecting our children and protect their privacy. I applaud Senator Gounardes and Assemblymember Rozic for sponsoring this legislation, I thank Governor Hochul for her focus on this issue, and I am proud to help advance these common sense measures to protect the next generation of New Yorkers.”

The SAFE for Kids Act will also permit parents to block social media platforms between midnight and 6 am, limit the total number of hours per day a child may have online, prohibits social media platforms from sending push notifications between midnight and 6am without a parent’s consent, and authorizes the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) to apply penalties of up to $5,000 per violation. 

“NYS PTA continues to support educational practices and policies that support the positive mental health of students,” New York State Parent Teacher Association Executive Director Kyle Belokopitsky commented of the legislation. “On behalf of our 2.6 million school children, and our nearly 250,000 members, we applaud Attorney General James, Governor Hochul, and the sponsors of this legislation, in working to curb many of the harmful aspects of social media. In a recent survey of our members, 82% believe that social media is one of the top 5 issues that affect our children’s mental health. We are proud to work with National PTA on this issue through the PTA Connected program, and look forward to seeing this legislation become law.”

The second bill, known as the New York Child Data Protection Act, officially prohibits all online websites from collecting, sharing, or selling personal data of anyone under the age of 18, unless prior informed consent was utilized, or unless doing so is strictly required for the website’s purpose. Like the SAFE for Kids Act, the bill also authorizes OAG to apply penalties up to $5,000 per violation.

“School boards share parents’ concerns that their children’s online data will be pirated and abused by commercial entities that may gain access to that information,” noted New York State School Boards Association Executive Director Robert S. Schneider of the legislation. “The data our young people may unwittingly provide through their online activity must be protected from those who would seek to collect and use it for their own monetary gain. We thank Attorney General James for recognizing the importance of this issue and for her efforts to advance the online safety of vulnerable children and teens.”

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I have worked as a professional journalist for over five years now, covering the arts, music, food, politics, and culture up and down both coasts of the United States. I have a B.A. in English from SUNY Fredonia with minors in Psychology and Creative Writing, as well as an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from California State University, Fresno.

Buffalo, NY

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