SoCal teen to testify in support of CA bill proposing more safeguards for children on social media

A California bill is aiming to create more legal safeguards for children who use social media, and a Southern California teen traveled to the state capitol to testify in support of the proposed law.

Emily "Emi" Kim, 18, did not expect to testify before California lawmakers this year.

"I didn't think I would ever be doing this. This was definitely not in my 2022 bingo card," said Kim.

However, she was eager to testify Tuesday before a committee on privacy and consumer protection in support of AB 2273, a bi-partisan bill that would change the way children experience social media.

"We deserve to have adults that care for us and want us to be safe and to grow up happy and healthy," said the Van Nuys teen who is part of the Log Off Movement, a student-run organization that promotes better social media use. The organization in gathering signatures in support of the bill.

"I think the bottom line is that companies need to do more," said Democratic Assemblymember Buffy Wicks, who introduced the bill alongside her Republican colleague, Jordan Cunningham. "I think a lot of them are willing to do more, and I think what we can do here in the legislature is make it a requirement."

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California lawmakers have proposed a bill that would allow parents to sue social media companies if they feel their children have become addicted to their apps.

Among other things, the bill would require companies to prioritize the safety and privacy of children in its products and services, restrict data profiling of children, and require high privacy settings like turning off geolocation, a feature that shows where you are when you post.

"I know a lot of young teenagers and especially young girls that will see those types of ads for whether it be diets or waist trainers and they just feel ashamed," said Kim.

In addition to being bullied over her weight and past battle with alopecia, she explains why some targeted social media ads were harmful.

"Over-the-counter hair supplements and for wigs and other products, and it just made me feel as though I couldn't be beautiful or just valid as a person if I was bald," she said.

The bill draws from similar legislation passed in the U.K. where, as a result, Google made SafeSearch its default browser for minors, YouTube turned off auto play for those under 18, and TikTok and Instagram disabled direct messages between children and adults they do not follow.

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Researchers in China found TikTok triggers parts of the brain that are involved in addiction, making it difficult for children to turn away.

"I'm hopeful that we get this bill out of the privacy committee... We have a lot of moms and dads on that committee, democrats and republicans," said Wicks. "It's got a lot of bipartisan support."

None of the social media companies we reached out to provided a comment on the bill. If it clears this committee, it moves on to the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

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