WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — Teens from across the country are on Capitol Hill urging lawmakers to make the internet safer.
Many say they have fallen victim to harassment and grooming online. Now, they’re pushing Congress to pass protections.
“It really had a negative impact on my mental health, a negative impact on my self-perception,” Kayla Bethea said.
Bethea says at age 14, she was bombarded with hateful messages after taking a stand in support of Black Lives Matter. She says hundreds of her peers face the same pressures.
“The algorithm isn’t trying to keep them more engaged, it’s trying to hurt children,” she said.
One by one, they shared their stories with senators during a roundtable Thursday morning.
“I would say my exploitation began when I was 13 years old,” Olivia Littleton said.
Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., and Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., are leading the effort to pass the Kids Online Safety Act.
“We just need your voices to get it across the finish line,” Blumenthal said.
The bill is designed to give parents and teens tools to protect their data or even opt out of algorithm-generated recommendations.
Earlier this year, the Surgeon General released an advisory linking social media use to poor mental outcomes, like low self-esteem, among adolescents.
The Kids Online Safety Act has bipartisan support from 50 senators.
Blumenthal and Blackburn are urging the Senate majority leader to bring it to the floor for a vote before the end of the year.