The Biden-Harris Administration recognizes the urgent need to address the youth mental health crisis in the United States, exacerbated by the influence of social media and online platforms. With alarming statistics revealing a significant rise in anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts among children and adolescents, the administration is taking decisive action to protect the privacy, health, and safety of minors in the digital realm. These efforts aim to mitigate the adverse effects of online platforms, enhance online safety, and promote responsible practices that prioritize the well-being of young people.
Interagency Task Force on Kids Online Health & Safety:
The Department of Health and Human Services, in close collaboration with the Department of Commerce, will lead an interagency Task Force on Kids Online Health & Safety. This task force will identify and address the risks and potential benefits associated with online platforms for minors. It will recommend measures to prevent and mitigate harm, develop a research agenda, and establish best practices and technical standards to safeguard children’s privacy, health, and safety online. By Spring 2024, the task force will provide voluntary guidance, policy recommendations, and a toolkit for industry stakeholders to design and develop digital products and services with safety, health, and privacy in mind.
Protection of Minor Students’ Data:
The Department of Education is committed to enhancing the privacy of minor students’ data and addressing concerns related to commercial entities monetizing that data. To further these goals, the department will initiate a rulemaking process under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). Additionally, the Department of Education will update its model FERPA notification and consent forms to ensure clarity and conciseness. Best practice guidance will also be provided to schools and districts regarding FERPA compliance and contracting with third-party vendors.
Promotion of Digital Health and Safety in Schools:
In collaboration with relevant departments and agencies, the Department of Education will release resources, model policies, and voluntary best practices for school districts on the use of internet-enabled devices and services in elementary and secondary schools. These resources aim to improve digital health, safety, and citizenship practices among students while fostering academic outcomes. The acquisition of safe, healthy, and developmentally-appropriate digital literacy skills and habits will be prioritized for P-12 students.
Prevention of Online Harassment and Abuse:
The Department of Commerce will play a crucial role in preventing online harassment and abuse of children and youth. It will utilize funding from the Digital Equity Act to increase awareness of support services for young victims of online harassment and abuse. State broadband administrators and digital equity leaders will be encouraged to incorporate prevention measures into their digital equity plans through the State Digital Equity Capacity Grant Program.
Combating Child Sexual Abuse Material:
The Department of Homeland Security, in collaboration with the Department of Justice, will partner with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) to establish combined image repositories for identifying victims and investigating offenses related to child sexual abuse material. This initiative will complement NCMEC’s efforts to empower young people through the Take It Down platform, enabling the removal or prevention of sharing private images or videos taken before the age of 18.
The Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to protecting youth mental health, safety, and privacy online is evident through these announced actions. By establishing an interagency Task Force on Kids Online Health & Safety, promoting data privacy in schools, providing resources for digital health and safety in education, preventing online harassment and abuse, and combating child sexual abuse material, the administration aims to create a safer and healthier online environment for minors. These efforts align with the administration’s dedication to addressing the challenges faced by America’s youth in the digital age and fostering responsible online practices that prioritize their well-being.