On October 23rd, 2023 in Washington, D.C., Issue One held an event to kick off Safe Tech, Safe Kids — a campaign partnership led by Project Liberty in collaboration with Issue One, our Council for Responsible Social Media, and 5Rights Foundation. The event, Safe Tech, Safe Kids: Confronting Social Media’s Harms to Youth, convened a diverse group of over 125 experts, advocates, researchers, and technologists who believe in one common truth: social media should be a safe environment for young people. The event covered a wide range of topics and brought together diverse perspectives to discuss the past, present, and future consequences of modern technology on children and teens.
Safe Tech, Safe Kids is both a campaign and a community. This initiative is comprised of organizations that are committed to a world in which young people and those who care about them have the tools, the transparency, and the agency they need to stay safe online and thrive.
Storyteller Sessions: Social Media’s Impact on Kids and Families
More than one in three people have been or know someone who has been harmed by social media. The storyteller sessions brought this alarming statistic to life by elevating the voices of those who have been directly impacted by social media’s harms. Gen Z leaders and changemakers Arielle Geismar, Sydnie Collins, Trisha Prabhu, and Lee Tilghman spoke out on the toxicity of the platforms for young people. Parent advocates Kristin Bride, Mary Rodee, and Maurine Molak each shared how social media companies’ negligence to kids’ online safety contributed to the end of each of their sons’ lives. The mothers emphasized how policy fixes – such as increased safeguards and higher transparency standards – could have saved their children’s lives and why reforms are necessary to create a safer online environment for kids and teens.
“I was viewed as a product, not a human. When I walked away [from being a content creator] no one could understand…The content creators of the world are not okay. The platforms are designed for you to spend all day long on them. You get addicted to the likes, seeing the follower account rise, and the virality.”-Lee Tilghman
“Social media companies run with the motto ‘Move fast and break things.’ Those ‘things’ are our children.” -Kristin Bride
Panel 1: How Social Media Disrupts our Children’s Communities
Young people’s use of attention-mining technology has resulted in demanding expectations around interconnectivity, new forms of social approval, and an entirely new realm of digital harms. How has this digital environment disrupted them, their wellbeing, and the way in which they can show up in their communities? A multistakeholder panel convened experts Imran Ahmed from the Center for Countering Digital Hate, Laura Marquez-Garett from the Social Media Victims Law Center, Lynne Harris from the Montgomery Board of Education, Dr. Mitch Prinstein from the American Psychological Association, and Linda Douglass (moderator) previously from the Atlantic and the White House’s Office of Health Reform, to provide a well-rounded assessment of this question.
“There is an entire shopping list of stuff that we need to know, we deserve to know. This significantly impacts the mental health, the physical health of our children. But also the health of our society… We need Congress to actually stand up and give us a statutory right to data and transparency from these platforms.”-Imran Ahmed
Panel 2: How Generative AI Will Impact Child Online Safety
The rapid emergence and deployment of new generative artificial intelligence (AI) technology has led many to wonder how generative AI will impact children’s safety online. Ravi Iyer from the Psychology of Technology Institute at the University of Southern California’s Neely Center, Martina Larkin from Project Liberty, Dalia Hashim from the Partnership on AI, and Camille Carlton (moderator) from the Center for Humane Technology, fused their expertise on AI to break down the problems and offer varying solutions.
“We have to shift [the attention on AI] to solutions, pragmatic solutions… Those include policy solutions, tech solutions, government solutions, ethical solutions…It’s a societal issue, it shouldn’t be solved just by technologists.” -Martina Larkin
Panel 3: How to Build a Safer and Healthier Online Environment for Kids
A panel of tech experts, global advocates, and community leaders – including Frances Haugen, Facebook whistleblower, Trisha Prabhu, inventor of ReThink, Frank McCourt, Founder of Project Liberty, Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers, and Dick Gephardt (moderator), Co-Chair of the Council for Responsible Social Media – offered concrete solutions, demands, and visions as to how building a safer and healthier online environment for kids is achievable.
“The tech can solve all of our problems, the tech is not the problem. It’s how it’s being used that’s devastating.”-Frances Haugen