by Nansen Malin, Washington State Parents for Smart Tech

Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers deserves praise for her leadership as Chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Her work addressing modern-day issues such as data privacy and youth online safety has sparked important policy conversations about holding Big Tech accountable. It was frustrating to watch dysfunction in Congress jeopardize these efforts when an important meeting to consider McMorris Rodger’s privacy bill was canceled at the last minute.

However, there may be a silver lining, this delay gives Chair McMorris Rogers and her colleagues time to reconsider policies that empower big government and instead adopt a common-sense proposal that equips parents with streamlined tools to proactively protect their children online. Consideration of The Kids Online Safety Act (KOSA) was also cancelled at the last minute. Online safety for our kids a growing concern across the country.  One simple solution is to require parental approval in app stores so that children under the age of sixteen must receive sign off from their parents each time they download a new app. There are many reasons why this proposal makes sense to me as a parent, but what stands out most to me is that it empowers parents to make decisions about what’s appropriate for their children – not the government. 

There is no debate as to whether unrestricted online access poses risks to our children. Exploitation, inappropriate content exposure, and abuse are valid fears parents can harbor about online access that must be confronted. The practical reality is these platforms and social media are not going anywhere.  They are deeply integrated into our daily lives, including our careers and education. Recent data states that over 90% of children aged 13 to 17 consume some form of social media. It’s important to safely introduce our kids to these platforms, which will inevitably be part of their future.

Right now, every single app has its own distinct settings and parental controls, which makes it confusing and burdensome for parents to police their children’s phone and social media use – especially when kids are continually downloading new apps, many of which parents may not even be aware of. Many policy proposals currently being considered would exacerbate this confusing network of differing controls. Parents need a simple tool and solution that is universal and adaptable.  Universal, is critical.  No online provider should be able to carve themselves out of the bill – it must apply to everyone.   

I’m encouraged by Chair Rodgers’ good work to tackle the important issue of online safety and I urge her to push forward.  Addressing this issue one app or social media platform at a time will not only complicate it for parents but risks legislation quickly becoming outdated as thousands of new apps are launched each day – each of them with the ability to be the new TikTok or Instagram.

Today, over 75% of parents believe that requiring parental approval at a single point, the app stores, is a more practical and secure way to monitor app downloads rather than overseeing controls on each individual app. This idea is a preemptive, no-loose-ends approach to online safety. I am hopeful that Representative McMorris Rodgers will not only keep fighting for privacy but also for a practical and functional way to empower parents to protect kids online.


Washington State Parents for Smart Tech  was created to help promote policy solutions that streamline and simplify parental controls on social media so parents can ensure their kids develop healthy social media habits.  Right now, some parental controls are complicated and hard to use for parents. And, as new apps emerge (nearly 1000 per day), the burden is again put on us as parents to catch the app before our kids download and begin interacting with other users.