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WVMS Voice

Has The Government Been “Offline” For Too Long?

Almost everybody in the whole world goes online on a day-to-day basis; how the government decides to regulate the web will affect everyone on a very personal level, and with this article, you’ll see how it’s imperative that lawmakers crack down on it before it’s too late…

When most kids used to open their cellphones, it was either to listen to music, text someone, or browse the internet. These days, opening your phone could mean infinite things, like going on social media such as Tiktok, Instagram, or Snapchat. Whether it’s to binge watch content on Youtube or Netflix, or to burn a few hours on a video game, these things raise a vital point that young adults are very prone and vulnerable to doing. It’s due to this that we need lawmakers to crack down on online regulations and “get back online” to address teens getting dragged into these bad habits.
The U.S. government tried to stop teen addiction to these types of apps in 1998 with the Child Online Protection App in 1998, or COPA for short, and as the Federal Trade Commission wrote on their page about the law, “The Act requires the commission to promulgate regulations [for]… operators of commercial websites and online services directed to children under 13,” which in short means that the government is allowed to regulate how social media sites interact with users who they know are under 13. Unfortunately, COPA is near impossible to be enforced since a site must “know” that the user’s under 13 or not, so if they never ask they don’t need to be regulated in any manner, allowing them to use addictive tools to keep the minor watching and show them content that’s inappropriate or pornographic as to maximize revenue. This is why we need to actually enforce COPA, since if we don’t pressure tech companies into truly verifying a viewer’s age then they can do whatever they want.
What I stated previously about what those companies do to maximize their revenue by not following COPA regulations is also backed up by strong evidence; the BBC wrote an article in 2022 about Christopher James Dawley, a high schooler in Wisconsin whose family members claim was constantly addicted to his phone. At age 17, Dawley committed suicide and posted on his Facebook page moments before death about how he was going to kill himself, and as one relative put it, “He was so addicted that even his last moments of his life were about posting on social media.” While an extreme case, the tragedy of Dawley highlights a recurring theme amongst many kids; social media and other online tools have started to influence their thoughts and life choices in many negative ways.
I think we can agree that nobody wants what happened to Dawley to repeat to any other children; to do this we must pressure legislators to enforce COPA as to stop children and young adults from straying away like he did. If we all work together and stop being “offline” and not addressing this, we can make change not just impacting youth in your personal life, but all over the world. It can start as early as today with simple outside exercise, or calling your friends to hangout. The bottom line: something needs to be done.



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