AFT, ParentsTogether, American Psychological Association and Others Pen Letter Urging Social Media Giants to Take Immediate Action to Curb Apps’ Negative Impact on Kids’ Mental Health
WASHINGTON―A diverse community coalition including the American Federation of Teachers, the American Psychological Association, Design It For Us, Fairplay and ParentsTogether has sent letters to the leading social media companies requesting they meet to urgently implement measures on their apps and products to keep kids safe.
The coalition letter, sent separately to Snap, Meta, Google, TikTok and X/Twitter on Friday, Aug. 18, reads, in part, “we, a coalition of parents, educators, students, and mental health professionals, have witnessed the alarming influence of screens on our children’s well-being, fueled by uncontrollable social media platforms. We urge you to collaborate in addressing this critical issue.”
As of Wednesday, none of the companies had responded to the letter.
The key measures and recommendations are drawn from “Likes vs. Learning: The Real Cost of Social Media for Schools,” a joint report released last month to combat the corrosive impact of the companies’ products on our nation’s kids and their capacity for learning. The report shines a light on the widespread negative impact of social media on children’s well-being, including increased anxiety, depression and addictive-like behaviors, that has emerged as a major issue for kids and parents.
The report emphasizes five guiding principles that social media companies are urged to follow:
1. Prioritize safety for children.
2. Protect students from overuse and addictive-like behavior.
3. Protect students’ privacy.
4. Protect students from risky algorithms.
5. Directly engage and work with schools and families.
“The good, bad and ugly about the impact of social media on our students, families and schools are clear. That is why educators, students, families and medical professionals have joined together to develop this set of recommendations,” says AFT President Randi Weingarten. “We know what needs to be done, but it’s for social media companies to act, namely to ensure their products are designed with our kids’ safety in mind and that they address the challenges kids face at home and in the classroom. Instead, they remain in a state of denial.”
“As parents send our kids back to school, we should be focusing on things like whether they’ll make friends, get good grades and make good choices. Instead, parents and teachers alike are dealing with the many problems that start on social media―bullying, dangerous challenges, the pressure to look a certain way and more―and fuel the youth mental health crisis,” said Ailen Arreaza, executive director of ParentsTogether. “Parents are sick and tired of bearing the weight of social media harms while Big Tech companies make billions of dollars from our kids’ time, attention and personal information. It’s time for industry-wide change.”
A recent poll, commissioned by ParentsTogether and Reset Tech and conducted by Hart Research, reveals that an overwhelming majority of voters believe that social media companies (84 percent), the federal government (71 percent) and state governments (67 percent) should do more to ensure the safety of children and teens online. The poll shows that two-thirds of voters (67 percent)—including large majorities across party lines—and nearly three-quarters of parents (73 percent) consider it crucial for the government to address the impact of social media on young people.
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The AFT represents 1.7 million pre-K through 12th-grade teachers; paraprofessionals and other school-related personnel; higher education faculty and professional staff; federal, state and local government employees; nurses and healthcare workers; and early childhood educators.