Sen. Amy Klobuchar hosted a virtual roundtable with Minnesota parents on Thursday to discuss the harms of Facebook and Instagram on kids.
Some Minnesota parents had the opportunity to take those concerns to Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), who is pushing to change laws to better regulate social media giants.
This comes after Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen testified before a Senate committee, mentioning how Facebook and Instagram target children and teens.
For example, Haugen talked about how the company knows it’s leading young users to eating disorder content.
“Polarized content, mean content, intense content, sells,” Sen. Klobuchar said. “Kids are literally getting addicted to the platforms and we know that algorithms have fed into that.”
Natalie Kennedy Shuck of St. Paul has three children, ages 12, 9 and 3.
“She does not know how to disassociate from it. So she feels really locked into these notifications,” said Kennedy Shuck about one of her kids.
Parent Sarah Beiswanger of Mankato said the content has been especially harmful to her three adopted children who were refugees from South Sudan.
“He’s asked me, ‘Will I get deported?’… ‘Why do people hate me because I’m a refugee?’ There’s things that target him based on who he is,” Beiswanger said.
But during the roundtable, parents said it’s not as simple as taking away these social media platforms from their kids.
One example parents talked about is the number of schools who use Facebook to get information out.
“I find that the school does use Facebook live during COVID… those teens needed to connect if they wanted to see the sports,” said Mara Hanel, a parent to five children and the mayor for the city of Warren.
Kennedy Shuck added, “I can remove those apps, I can’t remove the fact that this is a part of her reality that she’s growing into.”
Sen. Klobuchar said better privacy protections are needed. She also mentioned the need to allow new companies to blossom.
“The privacy laws, the competition policy that I just raised which would be a market approach in addition to the regulations, doing something about the algorithms,” Sen. Klobuchar said. “Then there’s a children’s privacy, online privacy bill, that’s already in place but making that safer.”
Miguel Lindgren of St. Paul said it’s important for parents to monitor what their kids are doing but added, “But I think with government regulation, sensible regulation, we can make this space safer for our kids.”