A bipartisan bill introduced in the U.S. Senate on July 26 would commission a research program on the health impact of social media and technology on infants, kids and teens.
Introduced by a balance of four Republicans and four Democrats, the bill would authorize the National Institutes of Health to research the effect exposure to a range of media – social media applications, television, movies, artificial intelligence, video games and augmented reality – has on young people. An annual report would assess how the consumption of these technologies influences cognitive, physical and socio-emotional development. If enacted, the bill would direct the NIH to conduct the program through 2023.
In total, the proposed legislation would authorize $95 million for the program.
"Our kids are immersed in technology that didn’t exist five years ago and probably won’t exist in another decade," Sen. Ben Sasse, R.-Neb., one of the bill’s co-sponsors, said in a July 26 statement. "Some of that is good and some of that is bad – what’s certain is that we know less than we ought to."
Another one of the bill’s co-sponsors, Sen. Brian Schatz, D.-Hawaii, echoed those sentiments.
"Whether we are addicted to technological devices and platforms is still an open question,” he said in a statement after the bill was announced. "This bill will help Congress understand the science behind tech addiction and give us the tools to make effective policy."
A 2017 report from Common Sense Media, a nonprofit that advocates for safe technology and media for children, found that use of mobile devices among children eight and under is surging. Specifically, the study found that the average child between the ages of zero to 8 in 2011 spent five minutes per day on mobile devices, but the average child in the same age range in 2017 spent 48 minutes a day on handheld devices.