Op-Ed: App Store Parental Consent Is First Step Toward Safer Social Media Use By Kids

March 27, 2024

By La’Dreamer Lark

As a mother and founder of a nonprofit dedicated to supporting underserved communities, I know we need to do more to protect our kids online.

While we collectively seek solutions, I wholeheartedly advocate for the passage of a federal requirement mandating parental consent via the app store before young kids can access social media platforms.

“… young users can easily stumble upon inappropriate content …”

For better or worse, the digital landscape has become an integral part of our children’s lives, shaping their perceptions and behaviors. The online world can be a positive avenue for socialization and resources, but it has plenty of risks as well. Without proper oversight, young users can easily stumble upon inappropriate content, encounter cyberbullying, or fall prey to online predators. These experiences can have lasting negative impacts on their mental health, social development, and academic performance.

For all children, and especially those in underserved communities, where access to resources and guidance may already be limited, the need for protective measures that parents can easily understand and utilize is paramount. This is why it has become more important than ever that the laws surrounding social media adapt to meet today’s needs. This is especially true when it comes to online safety for minors using these platforms – parents should be able to ensure the experience that their children are having online is safe.

The simplest and most effective way to deliver that right to parents is through a federal policy empowering parents to grant consent for children’s app downloads through the app store. By prioritizing the protection of our children in the digital realm, we can nurture their healthy development and equip them with the skills to navigate the online world responsibly.

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“Parental consent features for minors’ social media use…”

Parental consent features for minors’ social media use is not a new idea, in fact various states across the country have pursued their own variations of this approach in recent years. But the approach taken to date has been disorganized, with each state having its own rules that hold different apps to different standards – the jumbled set of rules that is beginning to materialize has become a headache for parents to keep up with.

It’s become clear that a federal solution is needed and delivering these parental safety consent tools through the app store, where we download all of our apps, makes the most sense. This way, if Americans under the age of 16 need parental approval to download a social media app, their age could be confirmed immediately upon setting up their phone, preventing safety concerns stemming from users needing to give new private information every time they download a new app. 

“Advocating for this federal requirement …”

Advocating for this federal requirement is not only about safeguarding our children’s present well-being but also about shaping a future where they can thrive both online and offline, regardless of their socio-economic backgrounds.

It’s time for Congress to act to ensure our kids can enjoy the benefits of social media safely.

La’Dreamer Lark

La’Dreamer Lark is a Harlem native and Founder of La’Dreamer & Daisy Helping Hands Foundation Inc., a nonprofit organization she started in 2018 with her young daughter to give back to their community. The organization’s first event provided 250 preassembled backpacks for kids and, during the pandemic, distributed 25,000 masks to the community and assembled care packages for nursing homes.  http://www.dreamershelpinghands.org/about-us/

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