Today, three members of Issue One’s Council for Responsible Social Media will testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee on the harms that children face in the online world, and what Congress can do to protect the safety, privacy, and well-being of our youth.
Kristin Bride, a mother who lost her son to cyberbullying, will testify alongside Emma Lembke, a Gen Z social media advocate and founder of LOG OFF, a youth movement that seeks to tackle the challenges of social media and its impact on younger generations, and Josh Golin, executive director of Fairplay, an organization committed to helping children thrive in an increasingly digital world.
The full committee hearing, under the leadership of Chairman Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Ranking Member Lindsey Graham (R-SC), will focus on protecting kids online, and comes on the heels of President Biden’s State of the Union address last week, where he called on lawmakers to “hold social media companies accountable for the experiment they are running on our children for profit.”
“I speak before you today with the tremendous responsibility to represent the many other parents who have also lost their children to social media harms,” said Kristin Bride in her prepared remarks. Kristin’s son Carson took his own life in 2020 after being cyberbullied by his high school classmates using anonymous apps like Yolo and LMK on Snapchat to hide their identities. “Our numbers continue to grow exponentially with teen deaths from dangerous online challenges fed to them on TikTok, sextortion over Facebook, fentanyl-laced drugs purchased over Snapchat, and deaths from eating disorder content over Instagram… Let us be clear—these are not coincidences, accidents, or unforeseen consequences. They are the direct result of products designed to hook and monetize America’s children.”
Emma Lembke, a 20-year-old from Birmingham, Alabama, also detailed her experience growing up with social media as a constant presence and core component of her social life: “As I began to spend more time on these platforms, I was met with a harsh reality. Social media was not magic. It was an illusion, a carefully designed product predicated on maximizing my attention at the cost of my well-being. As my screen time steadily increased, my mental and physical health suffered. The constant quantification of my worth through likes, comments, and followers increased my anxiety and deepened my depression.”
Added Fairplay Executive Director Josh Golin: “For more than a decade, social media companies have been performing a vast uncontrolled experiment on our children… It doesn’t have to be this way. Instead of prioritizing engagement and data collection, apps, websites, and online platforms could be built in ways that reduce risks and increase safeguards for children and teens. With many young people now spending a majority of their waking hours online and on social media, improving the digital environment so it is safer and not exploitative or addictive is one of the most important things we can do to address the mental health crisis.”
Kristin Bride called on Republicans and Democrats to put partisan politics aside and work together to save lives. “It should not take grieving parents filing lawsuits on behalf of their dead children to hold this industry accountable for their dangerous and addictive product designs,” Bride said. “Federal legislation like the Kids Online Safety Act (KOSA), which requires social media companies to have a duty of care when designing their products for America’s children, is long overdue. We need our lawmakers to step up, put politics aside, and finally protect all children online.”
Emma Lembke also urged our elected leaders to take meaningful action to protect children online: “As a society, we will never go back to a time where social media does not exist, nor should we. But make no mistake, unregulated social media is a weapon of mass destruction that continues to jeopardize the privacy, safety, and wellbeing of all American youth. This harm does not stop at the borders of the United States, this is a global crisis… It’s time to act and, Senators, I urge you to meaningfully regulate these companies not just for my generation but with my generation. Integrating our lived experience into the regulatory process is essential to getting it right.”
Issue One’s Council for Responsible Social Media is a bipartisan group of more than 50 leaders from different sectors who have come together to create a healthier social media environment and find solutions to the technological harms to our kids, communities, and our national security.