ICYMI: Sen Gounardes to Lead Child Internet Safety Panel at SXSW 2024

Stopping the Scroll: Legislating An Age-Appropriate Internet

BROOKLYN, NY (11/06/2023) (readMedia)-- Senator Andrew Gounardes will be leading a panel at the upcoming South By Southwest conference on child internet safety and his new legislation aimed to regulate the social media industry to protect minors. He will be joined by Zephyr Teachout of Fordham Law School, Emi Kim of the Log Off Movement, and Joe Toscano of DataGrade to discuss the issue of age-appropriate use of social media today. Discussion will include Senator Gounardes' legislation, including New York's Child Data Privacy & Protection Act and the SAFE for Kids Act, which aim to prevent social media platforms from collecting data and using addictive algorithms for users under the age of 18. In bringing together a diverse range of perspectives and solutions, the panel will also discuss other social media solutions from various states, including California's Age-Appropriate Design Code Act.

Next year's South by Southwest conference and festival will take place from March 8th to the 16th. The date and time for the social media panel are still to be determined. For more information on the upcoming session, visit SXSW's website.


Children across the world are growing up accustomed to spending significant time online, and recent research paints a stark picture - revealing increased rates of depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, and self-harm among children and young adults due to increased social media use. According to recent research, half of teens say social media makes them feel worse about their body image, social media use leads to disrupted sleep cycles, and youth who spend more than three hours a day on social media (the average for overall Internet use is almost nine hours a day, not including time for homework) double their risk for depression and anxiety. Social media usage has such a negative effect on youth mental health, in fact, that the US Surgeon General issued an advisory in May 2023 declaring it unsafe for kids. This is the leading national spokesperson on matters of public health, begging policy intervention.

Bill #1: Stop Addictive Feeds Exploitation (SAFE) for Kids Act

The SAFE for Kids Act will require social media companies to restrict the addictive features on their platforms that most harm young users. Currently, platforms supplement the content that users view from the accounts they follow by serving them content from accounts they do not follow or subscribe to. This content is curated using algorithms that gather and display content based on a variety of factors. However, algorithmic feeds have been shown to be addictive because they prioritize content that keeps users on the platform longer. Addictive feeds are correlated with an increase in the amount of time that teens and young adults spend on social media and significant negative mental health outcomes for minors.

To address this problem, the legislation will:

  • Ban social media platforms from offering addictive feeds to any persons under 18 without parental consent. Instead, users will receive a chronological feed of content from only the users that they already follow or feeds of generally popular content – the same way that social media feeds functioned before the advent of addictive feeds. Users may also search for specific topics of interest.
  • Prohibit social media platforms from sending notifications to minors from 12AM and 6AM without verifiable parental consent.
  • Allow users and parents to opt out of minors accessing social media platforms between the hours of 12AM and 6AM.
  • Authorize the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) to bring an action to enjoin or seek damages or civil penalties of up to $5,000 per violation. Allow any parent/guardian of a covered minor to sue for damages of up to $500 per user per incident, or actual damages, whichever is greater.

This legislation will only impact social media platforms with feeds comprised of user-generated content along with other material that the platform recommends to users based on data it collects from them. For example, Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, and YouTube would all be subject to this legislation.

Bill #2: The New York Child Data Protection Act

With few privacy protections in place for minors online, children are vulnerable to having their location and other personal data tracked and shared with third parties. To protect children's privacy, the New York Child Data Protection Act will prohibit all online sites from collecting, using, sharing, or selling personal data of anyone under the age of 18 for the purposes of advertising, unless they receive informed consent or unless doing so is strictly necessary for the purpose of the website. For users under 13, this informed consent must come from a parent. The bill authorizes OAG to enforce the law and may enjoin, seek damages, or civil penalties of up to $5,000 per violation.