Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Dear Common Dreams Readers:
Corporations and billionaires have their own media. Shouldn't we? When you “follow the money” that funds our independent journalism, it all leads back to this: people like you. Our supporters are what allows us to produce journalism in the public interest that is beholden only to people, our planet, and the common good. Please support our Mid-Year Campaign so that we always have a newsroom for the people that is funded by the people. Thank you for your support. --Jon Queally, managing editor

Join the small group of generous readers who donate, keeping Common Dreams free for millions of people each year. Without your help, we won’t survive.

socialmedia-3000

A phone displaying popular social media apps. (Photo: Flickr/cc)

Our Kids Deserve Better: It's Time to Regulate Facebook

Children are uniquely vulnerable online, and our laws must reflect that with unique protections for kids.

Ed Markey

 by MassLive

From the moment kids log onto Instagram for the first time, the app is collecting information about their interests, habits, and identity. Powerful online platforms gobble up this data and use it to pump toxic, attention-grabbing content to screens—with full knowledge of the vulnerabilities of children and teens. This pernicious Big Tech business model of targeting kids early, according to its own research, leads to depression, body-image issues, and even suicidal thoughts.

Every day, kids are shown pictures of perfect bodies and weight loss ads. They are exposed to content featuring vaping and alcohol. They are stacked up against their peers in an online popularity contest to see who can receive the most "likes" or followers. Every day, young people spend hours on platforms that commodify their online identity and monetize their data.

I'm leading the fight to stop Big Tech from tracking children and teens, to safeguard our kids from dangerous content, and to fund research on how social media impacts kids' mental health.

That toxicity isn't a byproduct—it's how tech platforms make money. When profits come at the cost of our kids' well-being and safety, Congress must intervene. I'm leading the fight to stop Big Tech from tracking children and teens, to safeguard our kids from dangerous content, and to fund research on how social media impacts kids' mental health.

Children are uniquely vulnerable online, and our laws must reflect that with unique protections for kids. Regulation works. More than twenty years ago, I successfully passed the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), which has since been used by the Federal Trade Commission to regulate tech companies and the way they interact with children. It's one reason Facebook hasn't officially permitted kids aged 12 and under onto its platform.

COPPA, however, was passed before the age of social media and smartphones—the "Before Facebook" era. Today's internet features instantaneous streaming, shopping, and socializing, primarily on mobile devices that are ubiquitous. The internet is oxygen for children—they can't live without it. And as the internet expands into every area of our lives, we must also enhance regulations to meet the moment—especially when it comes to our kids.

I introduced the bipartisan Children and Teens' Online Privacy Protection Act, or COPPA 2.0, which would put on the books an updated children's privacy bill of rights, building off existing successful COPPA protections and extending them to teenagers ages 15 and under. My bipartisan bill bans targeted advertising towards kids, and provides parents with an online "eraser" button to give them the ability to delete the information companies have collected about their kids. Until we enact a new law to protect children and teens' privacy online, Big Tech will continue to track young people at every turn online.

But we also must protect our children from the platforms' harmful design features, manipulative marketing, and dangerous content. My Kids Internet Design and Safety (KIDS) Act, bans features like auto play and push notifications that incentivize kids to spend endless time on their devices. It would ban quantified popularity—such as the number of "likes" a photo may accrue—for kids, so that they aren't thrust into online popularity contests in a digital school cafeteria. It would also get rid of manipulative "influencer" marketing and harmful algorithms that direct kids to inappropriate content.

Kids live in a gauntlet of threats to their wellbeing online, and it's no wonder Facebook's internal research shows the negative impacts of these platforms on teens' mental health. But we can't rely on leaked documents to get a full understanding of the toll today's online ecosystem is having on our children and teens' psychological, physical and emotional development. That's why I have introduced the bipartisan Children and Media Research Advancement, or CAMRA Act, to fund a five-year, $95 million National Institutes of Health research initiative on the impacts of social media on children and teens. It's time parents have more evidence-based understanding of how technology is affecting young people's brains, bodies, and behaviors.

As the world joins in a global digital commons, we must create a bold regulatory framework that protects our children first and foremost. I am confident we will take steps to do so this Congress.


Ed Markey

Senator Edward J. Markey is a Democrat representing Massachusetts in the U.S. Senate. Follow him on Twitter: @SenMarkey

Just a few days left in our crucial Mid-Year Campaign and we might not make it without your help.
Who funds our independent journalism? Readers like you who believe in our mission: To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. No corporate advertisers. No billionaire founder. Our non-partisan, nonprofit media model has only one source of revenue: The people who read and value this work and our mission. That's it.
And the model is simple: If everyone just gives whatever amount they can afford and think is reasonable—$3, $9, $29, or more—we can continue. If not enough do, we go dark.

All the small gifts add up to something otherwise impossible. Please join us today. Donate to Common Dreams. This is crunch time. We need you now.

'Witness Intimidation. Clear as Day': Jan. 6 Panel Teases Evidence of Cover-Up Effort

"Add witness tampering to the laundry list of crimes Trump and his allies must be charged with," said professor Robert Reich.

Jessica Corbett ·


'Bombshell After Bombshell' Dropped as Jan. 6 Testimony Homes In On Trump Guilt

"Hutchinson's testimony of the deeply detailed plans of January 6 and the inaction of those in the White House in response to the violence show just how close we came to a coup," said one pro-democracy organizer.

Brett Wilkins ·


Mark Meadows 'Did Seek That Pardon, Yes Ma'am,' Hutchinson Testifies

The former aide confirmed that attorney Rudy Giuliani also sought a presidential pardon related to the January 6 attack.

Jessica Corbett ·


UN Chief Warns of 'Ocean Emergency' as Leaders Confront Biodiversity Loss, Pollution

"We must turn the tide," said Secretary-General António Guterres. "A healthy and productive ocean is vital to our shared future."

Julia Conley ·


'I Don't F—ing Care That They Have Weapons': Trump Wanted Security to Let Armed Supporters March on Capitol

"They're not here to hurt me," Trump said on the day of the January 6 insurrection, testified a former aide to ex-White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows.

Jake Johnson ·

Common Dreams Logo