Senator Lee: Protecting Innocence in a Digital World

Thank You mr. chairman for holding this hearing thanks to each of you for being here this is an important topic it reminds me of a time I was riding in the car with my then teenage sons a few years ago a song came on the radio I listened to the words of it I concluded the words were bad and I immediately told them this is terrible when I turned down the volume my son John at the time without missing a beat said dad it's not bad if you don't think about it yeah this is one of those things we'd prefer not to have to think about it this isn't bad if you don't think about it it's not bad only if you don't think about it this is a crisis affecting our children and it's not an abstract one it's not a rare one a 20-18 Pew Research study concluded that forty five percent of America's teens today are online almost constantly while another 44 percent are online at least several times a day that's eighty-nine percent of teens overall and this is far from an abstract issue that many of those people come into contact with things that harm them I have sometimes the results are severe according to a thorne study conducted in 2018 fully 55 percent of human trafficking survivors who were trafficked beginning in 2015 first encountered their trafficker online or via text message now those are just sort of the extreme examples many others who were never trafficked end up being harmed by things that they're exposed to online collectively the the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store account for about 95% of app purchases in the United States now to their credit both Apple and Google use an age rating system and have some child-focused rules to prevent children from being exposed to things that they that they shouldn't be and yet some of the most popular apps sold for those stores including things like u2 and snapchat and Instagram can and often do in fact constantly do provide sexually explicit contact content to children and it's it's not just when a child is looking for that it's happening when they input very innocent childlike search terms that have nothing to do with sexual content so mr. Mackenna I'd like to talk to you about this for a minute what should a padule– with their rating measures to help prevent this kind of thing from happening to help prevent providing this kind of sexually explicit conduct content to children thank you senator Lee first and foremost we we simply want transparency in additional information for parents in in no other context where we know that young people are spending a lot of time do we allow for this much inaccuracy with the information that we give parents to know how to protect their kids like I'm envisioning or of an analog example of a toy in a toy aisle that had some of the features of some of the things that we see on apps that are used by teens and then just telling parents well mixed in with all the other things that your kids love we just want you to avoid looking at that one place we would simply never allow that to happen and so when it comes to the app stores we want there to be a unification you referred to both Apple and Google but they use very different processes as we explained in my written testimony to evaluate and also to score those apps so there's this confusion even if you look at one or the other we also would argue that what you get is a very generic set of descriptions that really don't tell you what's actually going on inside of the app so this transparency of what the true interactions are if you were to look at the app store description in Apple for Instagram tik-tok and snapchat three of the top social media platforms used by kids today you would find the exact same description in other words there's nothing unique to tell us about any of the predatory risks or things specific to a snap map which is why we connect to say the ESRB where if you were to look at some of the top games that the ESRB is rated there is volumes of information telling you exactly what goes on what happens to certain body parts and blood and gore and you walk away from this description as a parent with a clear view as to what I'm going to be putting in front of my children now I still have right the option but I've been informed so we want that unification to make them the same make it transparent and provide some accountability so that when players in the app store are not giving information to parents as they should that there's some ramifications for that otherwise behavior is just never going to change well said demanding or expecting that a child behave like a good Internet citizen falls on deaf ears especially when someone is encouraging a child to use an app that at times acts like a strip club mr. Chairman I ask unanimous consent that we submitted into the record the testimony of Don Hawkins the senior vice president and executive director for the National Center on child exploitation the objection

1 thought on “Senator Lee: Protecting Innocence in a Digital World

  1. Maybe I'm the only one but is it not the parents job to raise there kids and to set rules and enforce them it's the job of the parents to be a parent

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