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Are social media platforms like YouTube or Snapchat safe for kids? Senators want to know

Senators are asking executives with YouTube, TikTok, and Snapchat about their companies and how exactly their platforms are safe for kids.

This line of questioning comes on the heels of the Facebook whistleblower who shows Facebook and Instagram’s practices are harmful to teenagers on the platforms.

The executives in question are Michael Beckerman who is the Vice President of TikTok and the head of public policy in the Americas, Leslie Miller, the Vice President for government affairs and public policy of Google which owns YouTube, and Jennifer Stout, Vice President of public policy with Snap Inc. which owns Snapchat.

Lawmakers are concerned as the platforms continue to heavily influence children and teens. The apps not only influence the way they dress and act, but it influences bullying, harassment, and vandalism in schools.

Questions surround the algorithm of these apps and how they can be harmful. The panel also wants to know how parents can protect their children.

TikTok has come under fire because it’s owned by a Chinese company called ByteDance, and Americans were concerned their information was being made available to the Chinese government. The company denies this and says all data is stored in the United States for American users.

After being questioned on child safety, TikTok created tighter privacy practices for its users under the age of 18.

YouTube Kids was also under fire as lawmakers claimed it was simply a way to give kids inappropriate material while bombarding them with ads.

YouTube ended up paying a settlement to the FTC and New York State for allegations of collecting personal data on children without parental consent. They attempted to remove any accounts that appeared to belong to children under the age of 13 on their regular YouTube platform.

Snapchat is used by 90% of all 13 to 24-year-olds in the United States, and in 2014 settled with the FTC for deceiving its users about how the material actually vanished. It also collected users contacts without telling or asking. The messages that supposedly disappeared could be saved by other apps.

An outside expert now monitors Snapchat’s privacy program and will for the next twenty years.