We spotlight the critical issues of tech’s impact on society and build alliances with partners to bring forth powerful change.
Youth, Mental Health & Tech Campaign
Social media is a tool that fosters connections but also perpetuates potential harm.
Nearly 95% of adolescents in the United States aged 13-17 are immersed in social media with a third stating they are on social media “constantly.” The tie between excessive social media usage among youth and increased anxiety and depression is increasingly recognized. Compounding these problems are sleep disturbances resulting from increased screen time and its addictive nature (described as more addictive than cigarettes). Further, nearly half of teens share that they have experienced online harassment and cyberbullying. Young girls are in the eye of the storm, often grappling with exposure to content that could contribute to body dysmorphia, disordered eating, and plummeting self-esteem.
The US Surgeon General released an advisory in May 2023, stating that there’s enough research that demonstrates that social media can “pose a risk of harm to the mental health and well-being of children and adolescents.” The advisory states, “While social media use can have positive impacts for some children, the evidence noted throughout this Surgeon General’s Advisory necessitates significant concern with the way it is currently designed, deployed, and utilized.”
Despite the serious risks, we are failing to equip our youth, our families, educators, and lawmakers with effective tools to counter these challenges while tech companies are simply not doing enough to protect young users. With children’s mental health at stake, we believe it is our shared responsibility to bring about the bold change that our world needs urgently.
And we have a window of great opportunity now.
Even as the adverse impact of digital tech on young people is rising, so is widespread understanding and political will to create change. Policymakers around the world are eager to demonstrate leadership and action — responding to a growing body of research including the US Surgeon General’s warning about social media, global stories with tragic consequences, and shifting public opinion.
Project Liberty is launching and executing a multifaceted communications and legislative education campaign. Together with Alliance members Issue One/Council for Responsible Social Media, Project Liberty Action Network and a growing number of partners, we will work to ensure that digital products and services anticipate young people’s safety, mental health, and rights, aiming to:
Require providers of digital products and services to ensure a high level of privacy, safety, and security for all under 18 years of age by design and default.
Hold providers accountable for how technology is designed in order to reduce features that lead to adverse social-emotional outcomes for under-18s.
Give young people agency over their data and user experience.
Support legislative education that defines controls by design and by default on data, privacy, design code, and product features in an age-appropriate and rights-respecting way.