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State takes aim at addictive social media feeds requiring consent from parents

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  • Staff Report 

Governor Kathy Hochul announced the passage of two groundbreaking bills designed to safeguard children from addictive social media feeds and protect their personal data. The Stop Addictive Feeds Exploitation (SAFE) for Kids Act and the New York Child Data Protection Act are set to transform how children interact with digital platforms.

“New York is leading the nation to protect our kids from addictive social media feeds and shield their personal data from predatory companies,” said Governor Hochul. “Together, we’ve taken a historic step forward in our efforts to address the youth mental health crisis and create a safer digital environment for young people.”

The SAFE for Kids Act restricts social media companies from providing addictive feeds to users under 18 without parental consent. It also bans notifications about addictive feeds from midnight to 6 a.m. for minors. Violations can result in civil penalties up to $5,000 per infraction, enforced by the Office of the Attorney General (OAG).

The New York Child Data Protection Act prohibits online sites from collecting, using, sharing, or selling personal data of minors unless with informed consent or if necessary for the website’s function. The OAG is authorized to enforce this law and seek damages or penalties for violations.

Attorney General Letitia James emphasized the urgency of these measures, citing the mental health crisis exacerbated by social media. “Our children are enduring a mental health crisis, and social media is fueling the fire and profiting from the epidemic,” said James.

Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie praised the legislation, highlighting the need for evolving protections as technology advances. “These bills will give parents the tools to help protect kids from predatory practices that impact their mental health,” said Heastie.

Senator Andrew Gounardes and Assemblymember Nily Rozic, sponsors of the bills, stressed the importance of prioritizing children’s privacy and wellbeing over corporate profits. “New York is sending a clear message to Big Tech: your profits are not more important than our kids’ privacy and wellbeing,” said Gounardes.

NYSUT President Melinda Person lauded the legislation, noting the daily impacts educators witness from social media on students. “This legislation is a tremendous first step toward ensuring these influences remain in their proper places,” said Person.

This September, NYSUT will host “Disconnected,” a conference to address the impact of cell phones, social media, and technology on children, schools, and learning, gathering educators, mental health providers, union leaders, and elected officials to share strategies and solutions.