ROCHESTER, Minn. (FOX47) — U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar held a virtual roundtable with parents Thursday to discuss their concerns about social media and their children.
The discussion comes on the heels of the senator’s recent meeting with Facebook whistleblower, Frances Haugen. Haugen gave new information about how Facebook promotes content to children.
In Thursday’s roundtable, Klobuchar said Facebook and Instagram’s algorithms promote harmful content to children, which can make them susceptible to conditions like eating disorders and depression. She said a good place to start is fighting for better privacy laws.
“We know the consequences are so serious with eating disorders and the like,” Klobuchar said. “And, part of what I want to get is solutions. And the first solution is better privacy protections because we know that people don’t really want their data to be used.”
She said that the social media platforms know that the content is harmful, but continue to profit off children. Some parents in the discussion even said their children have become addicted to social media.
“The tech companies keep saying, “just trust us”, and we know that’s just not true,” Klobuchar said.
Parent Natalie Kennedy said that simply eradicating social media from a child’s life isn’t a sustainable solution, since technology will always be around and the platforms will still be there as the child grows.
“The parental responsibility goes so far, but there’s too much we can’t control,” Kennedy said. “While I can eliminate social media from my daughter, I can take away her phone and remove those apps, but I can’t remove the fact that’s a part of her reality that she’s growing into.”
The group agreed that Facebook, Instagram and other social media platforms have formed monopolies and that breaking them up could be a solution to keeping their children safe.
“I think with sensible government regulation, we can make these spaces safe for kids,” says parent Miguel Lindgren. “I like the idea of competition. Allowing other companies to compete with Facebook, to give us more options.”
Klobuchar said trying to regulate and come up with solutions is complicated, and it needs to be easier for parents to control what their kids see on these platforms.
“You shouldn’t have to parent against trillion-dollar companies,“ she said. “When Apple developed a program that gave people a choice of whether or not they wanted their data to be tracked, 75% of people decided not to opt in,” she said. “But, the other tech companies clearly aren’t affording people that choice.”
Klobuchar has advocated for federal digital privacy laws before. In December 2019, she helped to introduce legislation to give Americans control over their personal data; prohibit companies from using consumers’ data to harm or deceive them.
She said finding solutions to protect children online is a bipartisan effort and it’s gaining support in Congress.