Following president’s call to action, Assembly announces hearing on protecting children online

On the heels of President Joe Biden’s call to strengthen privacy protections and online safety for children during his State of the Union address, Assemblymember Jesse Gabriel, Chair of the Assembly Committee on Privacy and Consumer Protection, and Assemblymember Tasha Boerner Horvath, Chair of the Assembly Committee on Arts, Entertainment, Sports, Tourism,and Internet Media, announced a joint hearing to discuss how California can better protect children online.

The informational hearing, titled Protecting Kids Online: Challenges and Opportunities in a Digital World, will take place in the State Capitol on Tuesday, March 29. The hearing will explore the effects of the Internet and social media on the privacy, civil liberties, and physical, mental, and emotional health of children; the role that digital media literacy training can play in protecting children; and how businesses and government can ensure that the privacy and safety of children are prioritized in the design of digital services.

“As a father and as a legislator, I am deeply concerned about protecting our kids online,” said Gabriel. “The testimony of Facebook whistleblower Francis Haugen was a powerful reminder that our kids are particularly vulnerable online and that we must consider all available options to protect their physical, mental, and emotional health in an increasingly digital world. I look forward to hearing from experts and stakeholders about how California can best ensure that digital innovation and protection of our kids can go hand in hand.”

“Though access to the internet provides our kids with an unprecedented opportunity for learning, it also presents increased risk,” said Boerner Horvath. “As a mother of two children, I want to ensure that when California’s youth go online, they’re protected. I’m particularly concerned over the effect social media has on our kids’ mental health, through eating disorders, depression, or other issues. I look forward to working with Assemblymember Gabriel to determine how we can best keep our kids safe.”

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Improving the privacy and well-being of children online is a top priority for Gabriel and the state legislature. Several pieces of legislation dealing with this topic have been introduced and will be moving through the legislative process this year.

In his State of the Union Address, President Biden touched on social media’s effect on children’s mental health, stating that “Children were also struggling before the pandemic. Bullying, violence, trauma, and the harms of social media. As Frances Haugen has shown, we must hold social media platforms accountable for the national experiment they’re conducting on our children for profit. It’s time to strengthen privacy protections, ban targeted advertising to children, and demand tech companies stop collecting personal data on our children.”