The Children’s Device Protection Bill pioneers child protection in the digital age by simplifying safeguards for parents, placing reasonable responsibility on manufacturers, and respecting the First Amendment.
Why the Children’s Device Protection bill is the most effective way to protect children online:
1. Constitutionally Sound
2. Technologically Feasible
3. Protects Privacy
Children’s Device Protection Bill Text & One Pagers:
Myth vs. Fact
This legislation will violate interstate commerce rules. Manufacturers will have to ship special phones to each state.
Filters are activated part of a phone’s software. When a phone connects to WiFi during the activation sequence, the phone automatically registers where it is being used, and can activate filters based upon location. This already happens in states that have different laws governing daylight savings time, for example.
This isn’t technically feasible. Manufacturers can’t tell how old a minor is without an ID.
This is not true! During activation, phones can tell the age of a user based on various indicators including biometrics and account birthday. In fact, Apple iPhones explicitly ask whether you are activating the phone for yourself or a child during activation.
These filters can’t do what you’re asking.
The existing filters on smartphones already filter obscenity on browsers. They’re just buried deep in parental control settings. This Bill simply takes those existing filters and asks the manufacturer to enable them when the device detects it is being activated by a minor.
This legislation undermines privacy by requiring government IDs at activation.
This legislation does not require people to input their IDs; It relies on existing ways that the phone can tell the age of the user to determine whether or not to activate filters. This means that children are protected by default, without any impediment to adult speech. The only time age verification would be required is if a parent or guardian wants to to deactivate a filter on a phone used by a minor.
In an era dominated by screens, parents and guardians grapple with never-ending challenges to keep children safe online.
The prevalence of harmful content—from childhood exposure to hardcore pornography with themes of racism, sexual violence and incest, to exploiters grooming young people to share child sexual abuse material (CSAM)—is overwhelming.
All devices have filters, but they automatically switch to “OFF” when the device is activated. As a result, children and unsuspecting people are vulnerable to unwanted or damaging exposure to hardcore pornography. The fact is, turning on safety settings and filters on devices is complex and inefficient—some devices take dozens of steps to simply turn on the available protective settings.
The National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCOSE) reviewed over 100 academic studies on the negative impacts of pornography, which often includes incest, racism, and extreme violence themes. Pornography harms the brain, particularly for developing minds, and it fuels addiction. This material can ruin lives, and children are at most risk. This evidence should inform state policy.
State legislators know about the dangers to children online. In 2023, 24 states proposed age verification legislation to protect minors from pornography, modeled after Louisiana Act 440. Similar legislation was approved in Texas, Mississippi, Virginia, Arkansas, and Utah.
However, this legislation relies on pornography platforms to protect children online–and most are not implementing the laws. This is why NCOSE & Protect Young Eyes developed the Children’s Device Protection Bill, new model legislation to provide children with much-needed protection at the level of the device itself.
Why can’t devices activated for minors (or BY minors) default to safety from the start?
They can! Smart devices already have filtering capabilities and parental control software, but they are overly complicated for parents and guardians to navigate. And not all children have parents who care about their digital well-being.
By defaulting existing filters to “OFF,” devices leave children vulnerable to accidental exposure to harmful, violent explicit content. Particularly children without tech-savvy, highly involved caregivers.
The Children’s Device Protection Bill proposes crucial measures to hold phone and tablet manufacturers accountable to create a safer online environment, instead of putting all responsibility on overburdened parents and guardians.
Here’s how it works:
- When a mobile device is activated for or by a minor then the parental filtering software is enabled. Filtering software is already installed on the device. No new software is required.
- During activation, using various methods, the device will determine if the user is a minor.
- Smartphones and tablets already know the age of the user. The device will only enable the existing filter for minors.
- Parents and/or legal guardians have the right to turn off the filtering software for their minor.
- This bill does not affect retailers.
- This bill will only affect the manufacturer of the operating systems on the mobile device.
- This bill only affects search browsers on the mobile device.
- This bill does not affect any social media, such as Facebook, Instagram, X (Twitter), etc.
- By enabling filters on the device itself, instead of the network, the filter protects a minor online wherever the device is used.
What’s the difference between age verification legislation and the Children’s Device Protection Bill?
At the highest level, Age Verification legislation assumes all internet users are children unless they prove they’re an adult. The Children’s Device Protection Bill assumes all device users are adults unless the device detects it’s being activated by a child. This is a significant difference.
Age Verification legislation requires millions of websites with a certain amount of pornographic content to implement age verification to ensure minors are not able to access the explicit content. This kind of legislation is being successfully pursued internationally in countries like the United Kingdom, France, and Germany. However, in the United States, at the state level, several of those bills face U.S. constitutional challenges.
On the other hand, the Children’s Device Protection Bill places responsibility on a small list of device manufacturers to ensure existing filters are automatically enabled just for children. This approach targets U.S.-based entities subject to U.S. law and will be easier to enforce.
Age verification only occurs when a parent or legal guardian wants to deactivate the filter on a device being used by a minor.
Childhood pornography exposure is an prevalent issue. A nationally representative sample of 14- to 18-year-olds reported that 84.4% of males and 57% of females viewed pornography.
Research is clear that childhood pornography exposure is associated with multi-faceted harms to neurological, social, and sexual development, including but not limited to: increased risk for perpetrating sexual violence, increased risk of sharing self-generated child sexual abuse material (CSAM), poor academic achievement, mental health problems, and more.
“Because of porn, I have slowly become unsociable towards my friends and family, and I have never been able to have a romantic relationship with anyone besides the screen of my computer.” — Male, 19 years old
“I think pornography has made me react positively to non-consensual sex and violence against women.” — Female, 16 years old 20
Childhood pornography exposure is linked to other forms of exploitation through a complex web of psychological, social, and criminal dynamics. Here are some key connections:
- Normalization of Exploitation: Exposure to explicit material at a young age can desensitize individuals to the severity of exploitation. This normalization may make them more susceptible to manipulation or coercion by predators.
- Grooming and Manipulation: Predators may use explicit material as a tool for grooming. They exploit a child’s exposure to pornography to lower their inhibitions, make them more compliant, and blur the lines between appropriate and inappropriate behavior.
- Escalation of Exploitative Behavior: For some individuals, exposure to explicit material can escalate their behavior, leading to a greater likelihood of engaging in sexually violent or harmful activities, including child-on-child harmful sexual behavior.
- Trauma and Psychological Impact: Exposure to explicit material can cause significant trauma, leading to a range of emotional and psychological issues. These issues can make individuals more vulnerable to further exploitation and manipulation.
Will device filters make it difficult for children to find sex education content or educational content related to sexual orientations/identity?
Device filters are designed to strike a balance between protecting children from explicit content while still allowing them access to essential educational materials. The intention is not to hinder access to legitimate sex education content or resources related to sexual orientations and identities.
The existing filters already available and used routinely around the world distinguish between pornography platforms and educational websites. It is important to note that pornographic material is not a safe form of education for any person, and particularly children. Not only does pornography often present unrealistic, racist, violent, and incest-themed depictions of sexual behavior, leading to harmful expectations, it also is harmful in and of itself and can lead to neurological, social, and developmental harms. Educational materials that do not include pornography are, and will be, allowed through the filters.