Since the enactment of the Federal Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) in 1998, the digital world has evolved to the point where it is not only unavoidable but is often a necessary tool in our children’s day-to-day lives. It is rare to see a child who does not own a smartphone or tablet as these devices are frequently used to help them stay on track with their education and to keep in touch with their friends and family members. As children spend more time using the internet to do their homework or to keep up with the latest TikTok dance challenge, we must be mindful of the way that online products and services are designed and marketed as studies have shown that they can be addictive and have a significant impact on a child’s wellbeing.
I am introducing the Pennsylvania Age-Appropriate Design Code Act. While COPPA gives parents some of the tools needed to control the personal information that companies can collect from children under the age of 13, my legislation will hold tech companies to a few standards to ensure that our children are having safe, age-appropriate online experiences. This bill will require businesses with an online presence to complete a Data Protection Impact Assessment before offering new online services, products, or features that are likely to be accessed by children under the age of 18. Furthermore, it will prohibit those companies the following activities:
While it may be impossible to safeguard our children from every negative online experience, my legislation serves as a step toward protecting children and their wellbeing within the digital world, not from it. I ask that you join me in this commonsense endeavor of creating these standards to ensure that online services are appropriate for use by, and meet the developmental needs of, children throughout Pennsylvania.