Biden warned about the “harm of social media” on children’s mental health during his State of the Union speech.

President Joe Biden trust America, and especially young people, is going through a mental health crisis – and according to his speech at the State of the Union on Tuesday night, social media is one of the causes. profound.

In his speech, Biden promised to “hold social media platforms accountable for the national experiment they’re conducting on our children for profit.” To make his point, he mentioned a special guest in the audience, former Frances Haugen, Facebook employee who shared internal company documents to the press and Congress last fall showed that Facebook had publicly downplayed its own research that found a link between its products and mental health problems in some teenagers. . One of the underrated studies found that Instagram made body image problems worse in one in three teenage girls.

“It’s time to step up privacy protections, ban ads that target children, ask tech companies to stop collecting personal data about our kids,” Biden said.

The president’s mention of social media shows how regulating the tech industry is a real priority for his administration, at a time almost… 70% of Americans think technology companies hold too much power and 56% believes more government regulation is needed. Biden has been more support for technological reform than some initially expected – he has notably appointed Big Tech critics to key leadership positions, such as Tim Wu in the White House and Lina Khan at the Federal Trade Commission. But Wednesday’s speech marked one of the first times Biden has described how he wants to rein in technological prowess. To do so, he focused on a common theme – protecting teenagers and children online – that politicians on both sides of the aisle are concerned about. It should be noted that it is a narrower focus than the broader bipartisan call to break up certain technology companies under antitrust lawsor regulate how social media companies deal with content moderation on their platforms.

“This is really the first time Biden has come out and made a big policy statement about [social media]“Jim Steyer, CEO and founder of the nonprofit Common Sense Media, which promotes safe technology use for children, told Recode. “And I think it’s amazing that he’s shaped it through the lens of children and adolescents and families.”

Biden’s remarks about the harmful effects of social media were included as part of his agenda to address what he called the country’s mental health crisis. Rates of depression have long been rising in the US, and during the pandemic, that rate has risen dramatically. Some two out of five adults in the United Statesand 56% of young adults, have reported symptoms of anxiety or depression during the pandemic, according to a study last year by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Biden’s argument, which he also built in a fact sheet was given ahead of his speech on Wednesday, that social media companies are contributing to the problem, especially with teenagers.

The president did not mention specific companies in his speech. However, social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, TikTok and others have all faced criticism from some researchers, children’s advocates and lawmakers who argue that these this product may be addictive, may promote harmful and inaccurate information, and may induce harassment and exploitation.

To address this, Biden has called on Congress to strengthen privacy protections, ban targeted advertising and collection of personal data about children, and design their products to be less “addictive.” and fund more research in this area, according to his speech and plans.

While we still I don’t know exactly how much Social media impacts adolescents’ mental health and whether the positive effects may outweigh the negatives, several studies – including an internal Instagram report that Haugen suffered leak – have shown how social media can reinforce negative emotions such as thoughts of suicide, especially in teenagers who have faced these mental health problems.

Haugen’s testimony before Parliament on this matter last year was warmly received by politicians on both sides of the aislewith senators including Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) applauding Haugen for revealing the tech industry’s failure to protect young people.

There are now several bipartisan bills in Congress to kick-start the kinds of reforms Biden wants, including an update Children and Youth Online Privacy Protection Act suggested by Sens. Ed. Markey (D-MA) and Bill Cassidy (R-LA), and the Sens Children’s Online Safety Act. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT).

In addition to calling for regulation, Biden will also allocate at least $5 million in his budget for 2023 to advance research into the harms of social media and how to address these problems. He will also task the Department of Health and Human Services with the creation of a national center of excellence in social media and mental health that will create and share guidance on the subject, according to a fact sheet from the White House was released on Tuesday before the address.

Biden’s choice to focus on social media in his mental health plan is one area where he can see bipartisan support. Other areas of technology policy, like content moderation, are more divisive. That’s because Democrats have called on tech companies to remove much of the misinformation they see as harmful to democracy, and many Republicans say tech companies have take away too much content, for what they say are politically biased reasons. Helping protect children from the mental harm of social media is a topic liberals and conservatives may find more in common with, so it makes sense that Biden is focusing his efforts on social media. your power here.

While there is currently no clear solution agreed to by Congress, it could be one of the most likely areas where we could see tech reform in the near future. Biden warned about the “harm of social media” on children’s mental health during his State of the Union speech.

Fry Electronics Team

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