The KIDS Act addresses harms to children online, including amplification of disturbing and inappropriate content, damaging design features, and manipulative marketing


Washington (March 5, 2020) – Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), members of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, today introduced the Kids Internet Design and Safety (KIDS) Act. As children and teens increasingly spend their time on platforms like YouTube, TikTok, and Snapchat, Congress has yet to implement key safeguards that protect young people’s wellbeing in the current digital media environment. New research shows that by the age of 12 more than two-thirds of kids have their own smartphone, and more than twice as many young people watch videos every day than did in 2015. While kids are increasingly living their lives online, new reports have revealed the prevalence of violent and harmful content on popular platforms, the popularity of influencer marketing, and the adoption of design features, like auto-play, that effectively encourage young users to prolong their time spent on apps. Like the Children’s Television Act did in 1990, the KIDS Act includes important advertising rules and protects children’s interests as the ways that they consume media and entertain themselves evolves.


“Today, kids’ faces are increasingly covered in the glow of their screens, and it’s time to face the chilling reality that some websites and apps are built in ways that harm children,” said Senator Markey, co-author of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). “Powerful companies push kids to buy products at every turn online, and top platforms are saturated with disturbing content that no kid should ever be exposed to. As a society, we’re playing catch up to the serious risks to kids online, and Congress has a responsibility to say loud and clear that Big Tech needs to get serious about the wellbeing of children and teens.”


“Big Tech has designed their platforms to ensnare and exploit children for more likes, more views, and more purchases,” said Senator Blumenthal. “Generations of kids are growing up in online spaces besieged by the crass commercialization of social media influencers, tobacco companies, fast food, and alcohol brands. The KIDS Act puts guardrails in place to reign in recklessness of marketers and Big Tech – protecting children and giving parents some peace of mind.”


A copy of the legislation can be found HERE.


The KIDS Act addresses these trends and creates new protections for online users under 16 by:


Damaging Design Features:

  • Banning “auto-play” settings lead to prolonged and unhealthy viewing sessions on websites and apps for kids and young teens. 
  • Banning push alerts that encourage kids and young teens to pull out their devices and increase screen-time.
  • Banning badges that reward kids and young teens for increasing their time spent on an app or website.

Amplification of Harmful Content:

  • Prohibiting kids and young teen websites from amplifying violent, inappropriate, and dangerous content.
  • Requiring websites to implement mechanisms for users to report instances in which the website recommends harmful content to kids and young teens.

Manipulative Marketing:

  • Prohibiting websites from recommending content that includes host-selling, or influencer marketing, such as “unboxing videos” to children and young teens. 
  • Prohibiting websites from recommending content that involves nicotine, tobacco, or alcohol to children and young teens. 
  • Prohibiting websites from exposing children and young teens to marketing with imbedded interactive elements.


“Senator Markey has been in this fight for thirty years, and Common Sense thanks him for his steadfast commitment to prioritizing the well-being of kids,” said James P. Steyer, CEO and founder of Common Sense Media. “We urge Congress to pass the KIDS Act, legislation that would provide much-needed protections for kids online by regulating addictive and manipulative design and the commercial and inappropriate content that is currently served up to kids, containing violence, self-harm, and obscenity.”


“This groundbreaking bill will provide children with the 21st Century safeguards they urgently need today,” said Jeffrey Chester, Executive Director, Center for Digital Democracy.“Children and teens are being subjected to an unprecedented array of harmful digital marketing practices that undermine their health, security and development.  Children in the U.S. have been turned into digital “guinea pigs” as marketers and online platforms bombard them with commercial interactive applications designed to unfairly influence their emotions and behaviors.  The “Kids Act” will ensure that young people will be able to grow up in a world where they are no longer exposed to these unaccountable outside forces.”    


“It’s long been recognized that children are developmentally vulnerable to advertising and deserve special protections, which is why there are rules that prohibit certain kinds of ads on children's television. But for far too long, the internet has been a wild west where anything goes when it comes to marketing to kids,” said Josh Golin, Executive Director, Campaign for Commercial-Free Childhood. “The KIDS Act will provide critical safeguards so that children using online and mobile platforms to learn and connect won't be exposed to unfair, manipulative marketing that undermines their wellbeing. We applaud Senator Markey for his leadership in standing up for kids and families.”


“Much of the modern digital environment is designed by adults, for adults, to market and sell things. Despite the fact that children are avid users of browsers, games, social media, or easily-accessible general audience platforms, children are usually an afterthought in technology design or regulation,” said Dr. Jenny Radesky, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, University of Michigan Medical School. “As a result, the onus is on parents to help their child navigate a digital playground in which the platforms themselves are designed to promote arousing and commercial content. Senator Markey’s KIDS Act seeks to change this status quo and push platforms and regulations to consider the interests and the health of kids in the context of online media platforms.”

“The ‘free’ internet comes at a huge cost for kids, who are manipulated into watching a barrage of ads, and marketing disguised as content. For far too long the internet has been a wild west where anything goes, but the KIDS Act will provide critical safeguards so that children using online and mobile platforms to learn and connect won't be exposed to unfair, manipulative marketing that undermines their wellbeing. We applaud Senators Markey and Blumenthal for their leadership in standing up for kids and families," said Josh Golin, executive director, Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood.