(NewsNation Now) — The question over whose responsibility it is to keep kids safe online has reached Capitol Hill.
Is it the responsibility of tech companies or is there someone else who should be held accountable for ensuring young users’ safety on their social media platforms?
During an appearance on “Morning in America,” Josh Golin, executive director of Fairplay, said, “it’s absolutely the responsibility of tech companies.”
Fairplay is a nonprofit committed to helping children thrive in an increasingly commercialized, screen-obsessed culture, according to its website.
“These companies are not going to make the necessary changes to protect children on their own. Their business model is about making as much money off of kids as possible,” Golin said. “So we need Congress to act right now to enact 21st century protections for kids online.”
Senators put executives from YouTube, TikTok and Snapchat on the defensive Tuesday, questioning them about what they’re doing to ensure young users’ safety on their platforms.
Citing the harm that can come to vulnerable young people from the sites, the lawmakers sought the executives’ support for legislation bolstering the protection of children on social media. But they received little firm commitment.
“What we’re looking for is special protections for children,” Golin said. “Right now, the law says, once a child turns 13, they’re treated as an adult on the internet. And as we’ve seen, with all the information coming out of Facebook, that’s incredibly damaging to teenagers.”
Golin proposes “an internet that has a special set of rules for children and teens, that doesn’t allow the amplification of harmful content to children that age, that doesn’t allow that their data is collected for advertising purposes.”
So how are we going to create a safe space for children online?
“I think we can actually build an internet that protects children and still has all the benefits for adults, but it’s going to require regulation,” he said.
“Actually, we don’t need children and adults to be mixing on these platforms,” he said. “That’s actually what leads to a lot of the problems.”
“We need to keep children who are under 13 off of those platforms and we need to hold the companies accountable for all the children who are under 13,” he said.
A child’s internet usage has proven to be something that companies — and parents — can have a hard time monitoring as they are using these platforms at an increasingly younger age.
“The problem is how these kids are being monetized,” Golin explained.
“Lawmakers should pass laws that extend privacy protections to teenagers,” he said. “They have no privacy protections that ban data-driven advertising to children under 18.”
“It takes the will and the political will to force the companies to do this,” Golin said. “Lawmakers should pass laws that extend privacy protections.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.