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​​​​​Keeping Our Kids Safe Online​​

🌈 Abstract

The article discusses the tragic story of Kristin Bride, whose 16-year-old son Carson died by suicide after being cyberbullied through anonymous apps integrated into the Snapchat platform. The article highlights the need for legislative reforms, such as the Kids Online Safety Act (KOSA) and COPPA 2.0, to hold social media companies accountable for the harms their products cause to children. It also emphasizes the importance of collective action from parents, schools, and the government to address the challenges posed by technology and social media.

🙋 Q&A

[01] Kristin Bride's Story

1. What happened to Kristin Bride's son Carson?

  • Carson, Kristin's 16-year-old son, died by suicide after being cyberbullied through anonymous apps integrated into the Snapchat platform.
  • In the weeks leading up to his death, Carson received nearly a hundred harassing, threatening, and sexually explicit messages from his "Snapchat friends" using anonymous apps.
  • The "final straw" was when Carson reached out to a smaller group of classmates to pick up a pizza from his new job, and the anonymous responses he received were awful and cruel.

2. How did Kristin and her family try to protect Carson from online harms?

  • Kristin and her family were conservative with technology, not giving Carson a smartphone until 8th grade and limiting his access to apps.
  • They had frequent conversations about online safety at the dinner table, emphasizing that mistakes online can have lasting consequences.
  • Carson followed their rules, even when his abusers were being cruel, and refused to send nudes when asked.
  • Kristin was a "helicopter parent" for much of Carson's life, trying to keep him safe, but she knew she needed to loosen her grip as he became a teenager.

3. What was Kristin's response after Carson's death?

  • Kristin's grief led her to become a vocal advocate for social media reform, particularly for the Kids Online Safety Act (KOSA) and COPPA 2.0.
  • She reached out to the anonymous app YOLO that was used to cyberbully Carson, but her requests to follow their own policies and "reveal and ban" Carson's tormentors were ignored.
  • Kristin filed a National Class Action Lawsuit against Snapchat and the anonymous apps they had integrated into their platform, which led Snapchat to remove the anonymous apps and change their policy to permanently ban them.

[02] The Need for Legislative Reform

1. What are the key legislative reforms Kristin is advocating for?

  • The Kids Online Safety Act (KOSA), which would require social media companies to prevent and mitigate online harms like social media addiction, cyberbullying, and algorithms promoting suicide, eating disorders, and substance abuse.
  • COPPA 2.0 (Child Privacy Protections), which would strengthen protections related to the online collection, use, and disclosure of personal information through age 16.

2. Why are these legislative reforms necessary?

  • Under current law, there is no Duty of Care requiring social media companies to consider children's safety when designing their apps.
  • Social media companies are completely unregulated and have immunity from lawsuits under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.
  • This combination has created a multi-billion dollar industry that markets harmful products to children without any accountability.

3. What is the role of parents, schools, and the government in addressing the challenges posed by technology and social media?

  • Parents need to challenge the current "smartphone and social media norm" in their homes and schools, but this is not enough on its own.
  • Schools and the government need to be involved to address the complex problem from different angles.
  • Cooperation and collective action are required to change the trajectory of harm from these products.
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