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Children's health and development

Reducing harm of social media on children

APA Services supports legislation to restrict techniques used by social media companies to addict users and bolster privacy of children on social media.

Cite this
American Psychological Association. (2021, December 7). Reducing harm of social media on children.

Boy in his room looking at his cellphone

APA Services has endorsed two bills that align with the association’s mental and behavioral health advocacy priorities surrounding children.

The KIDS Act, introduced by Representative Kathy Castor (D-FL) and Senator Ed Markey (D-MA), aims to keep children safe and protect their interests on the internet. This legislation prevents online platforms from employing several harmful techniques that encourage children to check social media more often or keep child users on social media platforms longer. The KIDS Act also seeks to curtail advertising content that is targeted at children, including influencer marketing, content involving alcohol and tobacco, and product placement materials. Several of the regulations included are recommendations from research cited in APA’s article on minimizing Instagram's harmful effects.

The Protecting the Information of our Vulnerable Children and Youth Act, or KIDS Privacy Act, also introduced by Castor, is another bill aimed at increasing protections for children on social media. The KIDS Privacy Act seeks to amend the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998, to update and expand the coverage of the act to reflect current platforms and practices to protect children’s physical characteristics, biometric information, health information, education information, contents of messages and calls, browsing and search history, geolocation information, and latent audio or visual recordings from being captured and used by social media companies. Like the KIDS Act, this bill also seeks to curtail certain advertiser practices that currently benefit from targeting done using personal information and online behavior of adolescent users. Users will also be given the ability to opt in, instead of opt out, of tracking of personal information currently collected by online platforms and their advertisers.

The association is working on numerous efforts to encourage new legislative and regulatory policies that help to encourage additional research and take steps to reduce known harms for children using social media platforms. The impact of social media on child users is an increasingly visible area of research where psychological science plays an important role. For more psychological science on this issue, listen to APA’s Speaking of Psychology episode on how social media affects teens’ mental health and well-being, with Linda Charmaraman, PhD.

For more information, contact Corbin Evans.