CAMRA Act to direct long-awaited research into effects of technology and media on development of infants, children and teens; Sen. Markey expects results of research to further underline dire need for updated youth online privacy rules

Washington (December 20, 2022) – Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass), a member of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee and longtime champion of children’s online privacy protections, released the following statement today in response to news that the Fiscal Year 2023 omnibus package will include the Children and Media Research Advancement (CAMRA) Act—legislation introduced by Senator Markey and bipartisan colleagues that directs the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and Department of Health and Human Services to lead a research program on technology and media’s effects on infants, children, and adolescents in core areas of cognitive, physical, and socio-emotional development— while at the same time failing to include key provisions in Senator Markey’s Children and Teens’ Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA 2.0) that would update online privacy protections to stem those harmful effects.

As screen time for children has nearly doubled during the pandemic and rates of mental health challenges among children and teens are soaring, the CAMRA Act would commission research to investigate the impact of exposure to and use of media and technologies such as mobile devices, computers, social media, online applications, websites, television, motion pictures, artificial intelligence, video games, and virtual and augmented reality. As part of the year-end omnibus package, $15 million will be dedicated for the first year of this research initiative.

“As young people’s screen time skyrockets, it’s about time that we equipped parents and policymakers with clear, science-backed information about how technology and media are effecting children,” said Senator Markey. “The CAMRA Act will empower young people and their parents with the knowledge – and in turn, the power – to advocate for their health and safety, as Big Tech continues to prey on the time, attention, and privacy of our nation’s youth.”   

In spite of the major victory secured for children, teens and parents with the inclusion of the CAMRA Act in the year-end omnibus package, Senator Markey will continue the fight in the 118th Congress for commonsense Big Tech regulations informed by research and recommendations produced through the CAMRA Act. Specifically, Senator Markey has repeatedly called on leadership to advance four key privacy provisions, consistent with his Children and Teens’ Online Privacy Protection Act: a ban on targeted ads to children; an extension of existing privacy protections for children to young teens, aged 13 to 17; the creation of a Youth Marketing and Privacy Division at the FTC; and the commission of an FTC study on the 1998 COPPA safe harbor program to ensure it is protecting the interests of children.

In response to the Senate’s failure to include these key online privacy protections for children and teens in the omnibus package, Senator Markey said: “Thanks to the CAMRA Act, parents will soon have even moreinformation about the threats Big Tech poses to children and teens. I applaud my bipartisan colleagues for their support for this critical legislation. However, Congress continues to deprive young users of the protections they need in the face of well-understood threats online. By not passing the basic, bipartisan, consensus proposal I have been fighting for, Congress failed a moral test, it failed parents, it failed pediatricians, and most importantly, has failed the children and teens grappling with body image challenges, depression, and even suicidal ideation fueled by Big Tech’s unconscionable behavior.

Senator Markey continued, “For over a decade, I have been working across the aisle to update my Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act so that it meets the needs of 21st century kids facing the threats posed by 21st century technology. The toxicity, tracking, and targeting that young people face on the internet has reached a crisis point. There can be no doubt in our minds about what must be done. It is perfectly clear that the threats Big Tech poses to our kids aren’t a glitch in the system, they’re part of the business model. I am appalled that Republican leadership stood in the way of a basic privacy bill of rights for children and teens, but I will continue to stand with young people and fight until we’ve delivered them the rights and protections they deserve.”

 Senator Markey, a longtime advocate for children’s privacy, is the author of the landmark 1998 Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, which took major steps towards protecting the personal information of children online, as well as the author of the Children’s Television Act, which instituted important media and advertising rules to protect children.