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Blunt, Colleagues Reintroduce Bipartisan, Bicameral Legislation to Study Impact of Technology and Media on Children

As children and teens’ time online skyrockets during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, legislation would commission research on children’s technology use and media consumption

March 24, 2021

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senators Roy Blunt (Mo.), Edward J. Markey (Mass.), Ben Sasse (Neb.), Brian Schatz (Hawaii), Susan Collins (Maine), and Michael Bennet (Colo.), along with U.S. Representatives Jamie Raskin (Md.), Anthony Gonzalez (Ohio), and Lori Trahan (Mass.), introduced the Children and Media Research Advancement (CAMRA) Act. The legislation authorizes the National Institutes of Health to lead a research program on technology and media’s effects on infants, children, and adolescents in core areas of cognitive, physical, and socio-emotional development.

“Many parents I’ve spoken with are more concerned than ever about the significant increase in time their kids are spending on tablets, computers, and phones,” said Blunt. “Unfortunately, not much is known about how these devices impact a child’s health and development. By advancing research to better understand the impact of technology, parents will have valuable information on how to provide a healthy environment for their children to learn and grow.” 

“Kids’ time online has skyrocketed during the ongoing public health crisis. It is critical that parents and policymakers have a clear, evidence-based understanding of how technologies and media are affecting young people’s brains, bodies, and behaviors,” said Markey. “I am proud to reintroduce the Children and Media Research Advancement Act because when it comes to protecting our children, we have to follow the science. I thank my bipartisan partners for working with me on this legislation and I urge Congress to pass our bill now.”

“During this pandemic our kids’ screen time has exploded,” said Sasse. “We know our kids are spending a ton of time with technology — some of it is good and some of it is really bad. The truth is that we don’t know enough about how these digital tools shape kids. This is still a new area of study and we are always learning more. We need to be invested in this research and how it is affecting this generation of kids and future generations.”

“Our kids are spending more time than ever learning, playing, and connecting with friends and family from behind a screen. We need to study whether this increased screen time will have long-term effects on their health and well-being,” said Schatz. “Our bipartisan bill will allow us to better understand how technology impacts childhood development and give us the tools to make effective policy.”

“As technology and media continue to change, so does the manner in which young people interact with it on a daily basis.  There is little research, however, on the effects these devices have on their short- and long-term health and development,” said Collins. “Over the course of the pandemic, screens have dominated the way that children interact with the world and social isolation is prevalent.  Our bipartisan bill would provide NIH with the resources they need to conduct this important research.”

“During the pandemic, kids are spending more time online than ever before. We owe it to our kids to understand how devices and apps affect their health and well-being,” said Bennet. “Our bill will invest in vital research to help guide the tech industry, Congress, and parents to make informed decisions about technology’s effect on kids.”

“As screen time replaces play time, America’s parents and caregivers need to know how technology is reshaping the cognitive, physical, and emotional lives of our children,” said Raskin. “We have seen our kids’ time online soar in the pandemic, and we need a scientific understanding of how the new Internet age is affecting our kids, both positively and negatively. As the Representative of the community which is home to NIH, I’m excited to reintroduce this bill and to advocate for serious attention to the health and wellbeing of our kids.”

“Our children are growing up in a world engrained in technology. It is vital that we, as parents, understand the mental effects of this technology use and have expert data about its impact on future generations,” said Gonzalez. “I am proud to introduce the bipartisan Children and Media Research Advancement Act with my colleagues today which authorizes research on the health impacts of technology on children. As a parent, I am very concerned about how these technologies will influence our children’s health throughout their formative years, and in particular the mental health impact of social media.”

“There’s no question technology has significantly impacted our children. We owe it to parents across the nation to deeply understand what those impacts are so that we can protect our children,” said Trahan. “I’m proud to partner with this bipartisan coalition to reintroduce the bipartisan Children and Media Research Advancement Act. This legislation will finally empower the National Institutes of Health to conduct necessary research into how technology is affecting our kids.”

As children’s screen time has reportedly increased by 50 percent during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and new research shows that one in four young people say they are on social media “almost constantly,” the CAMRA Act would commission research to investigate the impact of exposure to and use of media and technologies such as mobile devices, computers, social media, online applications, websites, television, motion pictures, artificial intelligence, video games, and virtual and augmented reality. The bill authorizes $15 million for fiscal years 2022-2024 and $25 million for each of fiscal years 2025 and 2026.

Companies, organizations, and individuals who have endorsed the CAMRA Act include: Microsoft, Amazon, Google, Apple, Facebook, Lego Group, Ion Media, Litton Entertainment, Charter Communications, the Internet Association, Sesame Workshop, American Association of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, Center for Digital Democracy, Common Sense Media, Consumers Union, Children and Screens: Institute of Digital Media and Child Development, Dr. Jenny Radesky (Assistant Professor of Pediatrics and Developmental Behavior, University of Michigan Medical School), Dr. Michael Rich (Director, Digital Wellness Lab at Boston Children’s Hospital/Harvard Medical School), Family Online Safety Institute, UNICEF USA, the Massachusetts Association for Mental Health, the Center for Humane Technology, Education Development Center, Trisha Prahbu (CEO, ReThink), and Dr. David Greenfield (Founder and CMO, The Center for Internet and Technology Addiction).

A copy of the legislation can be found here.

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