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Across America, parents are finally starting to hold social media platforms responsible for what happens online. For too long, we’ve been hearing stories of drug dealers going after teenagers as young as age 13 on social media. Quite simply, children are being killed by drugs found on platforms like Snapchat. It’s simply too tragic for words, so it’s good to see legislation starting to develop around the nation. If social media platforms won’t institute new rules voluntarily, then the government needs to step in and play a role.
Holding social media companies accountable
The best-known example of parents converting tragedy and anguish into real legislation is Sammy’s Law (also known as the Let Parents Choose Protection Act), which originated in response to the death of Sammy Chapman, a 16-year-old who died as a result of getting his hands on fentanyl-laced drugs that he found via Snapchat. The legislation is bipartisan in nature and has support on both side of the political aisle.
The aim of the new legislation is simple – get social media companies to accept responsibility for what happens online. Platforms like Snapchat, Instagram, YouTube and TikTok can no longer claim that they do not play a role in keeping our kids safe. Parents are now demanding the ability to track the social media activity of their kids online via third-party software that will essentially act as parental monitoring software. The same way that you can track and monitor what your kids watch on TV, you will soon be able to do with social media.
At the same time, some social media companies say they are doing more to police what is happening online on their platforms. Snapchat, for example, has told parents that it is blocking certain drug-related search terms. It has also said that it is becoming more proactive in using AI-powered algorithms to help spot potential drug offenders and child predators.
Pros and cons
That’s the good news. The bad news is that the new legislation coming out of Florida might actually cause a new set of problems and issues. That’s because the “parental monitoring” software is also being characterized by privacy advocates as just another intrusive government surveillance tool. Do we really want our kids being tracked and monitored, 24 hours per day? And what happens if parents start snooping on their kids and find something embarrassing? Teenagers are already a bundle of nerves, anxiety and stress. The last thing they probably want is the knowledge that their parents are following them on certain social media platforms.
Maybe the real issue is that parents are counting on technology to solve all of their problems for them. The idea of legislation is a wonderful start, but solving the problem of drugs in our schools starts with strong family ties. Parents need to know who their kids are hanging out with, and kids needs to trust them enough to be honest. It might sound old-fashioned, but maybe parents should be more involved in the lives of their children so that kids don’t feel like they have to turn to drugs in the first place.
Regardless, social media companies must still be held accountable. Bipartisan legislation is currently the best option for accomplishing this. The days of excuses are over for the big social media platforms.