Legislation to protect children online passes with support from key officials

June 10, 2024 Robert Abruzzese, Courthouse Editor
Attorney General Letitia James sent out a press release praising the passage of new legislation aimed at protecting children online. Photo: Bebeto Matthews/AP
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Attorney General Letitia James commended the state Legislature for the passage of two groundbreaking bills aimed at safeguarding children online and addressing the youth mental health crisis exacerbated by social media. 

The bills, sponsored by Sen. Andrew Gounardes and Assemblymember Nily Rozic, were advanced by Attorney General James in October 2023. They aim to protect children by prohibiting online platforms from collecting and sharing minors’ personal data and limiting addictive features known to harm their mental health and development. This nation-leading legislation is expected to serve as a model for other states.

“Our children are enduring a mental health crisis, and social media is fueling the fire and profiting from the epidemic,” said Attorney General James. “The legislation my team worked on and supported along with bill sponsors Sen. Gounardes and Assemblymember Rozic will help address the addictive features that have made social media so insidious and anxiety-producing.”

Sen. Gounardes, who played a crucial role in advancing the legislation, expressed his support.

“I first introduced legislation to protect kids online back in 2022 because, as a father of two young kids, I knew we had to rein in social media, and I knew it would be a fight,” Gounardes said. “Now, thanks to the relentless advocacy of young people, parents, educators and advocates, we beat Big Tech. We’ve reached a deal to pass strong legislation that will protect kids’ privacy and let them enjoy social media free from the unwanted content they didn’t sign up for.”

The bills come in response to growing concerns about the impact of social media on children’s mental health. Studies have linked excessive social media use to poor sleep quality, increased anxiety, and depression among young users. The legislation will restrict social media companies from employing addictive algorithms and ensure the protection of children’s personal data.

The Stop Addictive Feeds Exploitation (SAFE) for Kids Act will require social media companies to obtain parental consent before allowing users under 18 to view algorithmically driven content. It will also prohibit platforms from sending notifications to minors between midnight and 6 p.m. without verifiable parental consent. 

Additionally, the New York Child Data Protection Act will prevent online sites from collecting, using, sharing or selling personal data of minors without informed consent.

Attorney General James acknowledged the efforts of various stakeholders in making this legislation possible, including the advocacy groups Common Sense Media, Mothers Against Media Addiction and the New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children.

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