Protecting children from Big Tech and child predators

Social media use has increased tremendously over the last decade, especially among younger users. Much chatter has erupted around the country over the controlled content social media algorithms feed to children, and how said algorithms ought to be.

To address this, the Minnesota Catholic Conference tested in support of a bill authored by Rep. Kristin Robbins and Sen. Roger Chamberlain (HF 3724 / SF 3933) that would prohibit the use of social media algorithms on children under 18. Studies show that 89 percent of teens are online either “almost constantly” or “several times per day.” Numerous examples of social harm from such high rates of social media and internet use have emerged, including a growing link between TikTok content and an increase in eating disorders among teen girls.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches, “Users should practice moderation and discipline in their approach to the mass media. They will want to form enlightened and correct consciences more easily to resist unwholesome influences” (CCC #2496). Since children’s brains are still developing, adults should take responsibility by monitoring their media time and limiting Big Tech’s control over their minds.

Increasing penalties for child predators

Another troubling issue facing Minnesota is the prevalence of child predators who evade reasonable sentences for their crimes. Producing, viewing, or disseminating child pornography in any format is abhorrent behavior that should never be tolerated. Additional steps need to be taken to discourage this behavior so children are better protected and predators are held accountable for their exploitation.

The MCC has expressed support for two bills authored by Rep. Matt Grossell, HF 3881 and HF 3925. The first would strengthen the penalty for offenders by modestly increasing mandatory minimums for those involved in possession, distribution and production of child imagery. The second would require that those who receive a stay of adjudication for certain crimes be registered as a sex offender.

The Catholic Church takes a strong stance against pornography: “(Pornography) does grave injury to the dignity of its participants. … It is a grave offense. Civil authorities should prevent the production and distribution of pornographic materials” (CCC #2354). The Church calls on civil authorities to take a stronger stance as well.

The MCC recognizes that work has been done in this area at the Legislature over the years, but unfortunately, child imagery possession and dissemination is still too prevalent in our culture. It is important to work to protect vulnerable children and more reasonably tailor the prison sentence for these offenders to their respective crime.

“Inside the Capitol” is an update from Minnesota Catholic Conference staff during the session.


Action Alert

Predatory online sports gambling has made its way through the House and will be up for a vote on the House floor soon. Please urge your legislator to vote against this bill and resist the push by gambling companies to bring anytime, anywhere sports gambling to Minnesota. Take action now: mncatholic.org/action_15311

Tags: Algorithms, Child predators, Protecting children from Big Tech, social media, social media algorithms

Category: Inside the Capitol

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