By Thomas Jenkins
A personal connection to keeping kids safe online is what
As of now, the Kids Online Safety Act (KOSA) has been presented to Congress for the second time in hope to protect children from social media. The KOSA bill requires social media platforms to protect minors from the release of their personal information, addictive features, and targeted algorithmic recommendations. It also allows parents to report any harmful information that their children see.
One of our teachers here at SOAR presented in front of Congress in support of this bill. On Wednesday, September 27, Ms. Nelsen and her daughter Cami Nelsen were invited to Washington D.C. because of their participation in the Dove: Self Esteem Project which was a campaign promoting KOSA. Ms. Nelsen explains, “It was my daughter's experience with her eating disorder and her depression. Both of which were directly connected with social media, specifically TikTok.” As these platforms continue to rise in popularity, we must weigh the positives and negatives of social media. Ms Nelsen brings up a strong point, “What I find is that a lot of students love social media and they think it’s brought a lot of good to their lives, but they also recognize that it’s having a negative impact on them and on their friends.” This is very important because, at this point, we are very vulnerable to our surroundings, which can be manipulated and influenced by social media companies to their own benefit.
KOSA was first introduced in 2022 in the 117th Congress but was not passed because of concerns that the bill would be used to censor content regarding the LGBTQ+ community. These concerns were that people would use this as an opportunity to deem the LGBTQ+ community as “inappropriate” for children to view online. They were eventually resolved before KOSA was presented to Congress for the second time this year. KOSA is designed to create a safe environment for children by defaulting settings that removes them from algorithms social media companies use. If you would like to be a part of these targeted recommendations, you would still be able to opt into the algorithms. To keep large social media companies accountable, an annual audit would be required to determine that dangers to minors are not promoted such as suicide, eating disorders, sexual exploitation, advertisements for illegal products, and more. Social media companies would also have to be transparent about the suggestions towards children which as of now are not required.
The Kids Online Safety Act is currently being considered by Congress and will hopefully be passed in the near future. To protect yourself from the negatives of social media, the next time you find yourself mindlessly scrolling or comparing yourself to those you see on your screen, remember that you are your own special person. Once in a while, take a few minutes away from your phone and enjoy the life around you.
If you ever feel overwhelmed or depressed, reach out to our counselors here at SOAR or contact the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline at 988.