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Legislation would allow third-party software for parents to monitor children online

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(The Center Square) – Legislation that would help parents monitor their children’s social media activity through third-party software is moving through the Illinois General Assembly.

House Bill 5380 would create the Let Parents Choose Protection Act, or Sammy’s Law, to require that social media companies provide children’s social media data to third-party apps, which parents could access. Sammy’s Law is named for 16-year-old Sammy Chapman, who died after buying fentanyl-laced drugs through video messaging app Snapchat.

“It’s about giving parents a choice to securely use third-party safety apps for any social media platform that allows children users,” said the bill’s sponsor, state Rep. Jennifer Gong-Gershowitz, D-Glenview.

Rose Bronstein of Chicago, who lost her son to suicide in 2021 after he was cyberbullied online, testified before the House Consumer Protection Committee.

“I want to emphasize to this committee how harmful and dangerous just one student’s singular action can be to another child online,” said Bronstein.

Hope Ledford, a spokesperson from the tech industry coalition Chamber of Progress, said her group opposes the legislation.

“While it’s important to encourage parental involvement to ensure a minor’s safety online, parents are now always the best choice to control how their child uses an online platform,” said Ledford. “Consent laws, for example, could be weaponized by divorced parents who share custody of a child.”

Lawmakers voted to move the measure out of the House Consumer Protection Committee last week. Gong-Gershowitz expects the legislation to be voted on by the Illinois House in early April.

A new law went into effect in Ohio this year that requires social media companies to verify a parent is aware a child under the age of 16 will be using social media or a gaming service. Anyone under 16 who tries to sign into their social media account needs to get their parents’ permission.

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