- The Washington Times - Monday, October 18, 2021

Reps. Mike Johnson and Debbie Dingell have introduced a bipartisan resolution in the House that calls on big tech companies to create a rating board for digital applications to help shield children from inappropriate content.

Introduced Friday, the resolution calls on technology and app development companies to establish an industry-run rating board similar to those for movies, music and video games.

Mr. Johnson, Louisiana Republican, said in a joint statement published on his website that the average child under 18 now spends from five to seven hours per day consuming digital media, making it harder for him and his wife Kelly to police the habits of their four children.

“For too long, apps have been allowed to serve as hubs for bullying, sexually explicit material, and other forms of content that jeopardize children’s safety, self-image, and overall well-being. It’s time for Big Tech to be held to the same standards of transparency as other forms of media so parents can better protect children from dangerous content,” Mr. Johnson said.

Ms. Dingell, Michigan Democrat, said in the same statement that the issue has become especially challenging to parents now that 89% of children have a smartphone by age 16.

“We have a responsibility to protect children from any malicious online content and cyberbullying, and this legislation would streamline app ratings so parents have a better understanding of the content their kids are consuming and make the best decisions on technology,” Ms. Dingell said.

Dawn Hawkins, head of the nonpartisan National Center on Sexual Exploitation, said the organization has endorsed the legislation so that American parents will no longer be “left in the dark” about the nature of various apps saved on their children’s phones.

“Many apps claim to be safe for children but instead, expose them to hardcore pornography that is demonstrably harmful to developing minds,” she said. “For instance, Instagram, Snapchat, and TikTok are rated 12+, but these social media platforms and others have left children vulnerable to potential predators and harmful content.”

According to the resolution, the “Fix App Ratings” bill addresses the inconsistency of app ratings and parental controls that vary in quality according to the whims of individual developers. The new rating board would be comprised of industry representatives and child development, child protection and internet safety experts.

Mr. Johnson and Ms. Dingell noted that the Motion Picture Association of America initiated a rating system more than 50 years ago, and computer and video games have been rated by the Entertainment Software Rating Board for nearly 20 years.

• Sean Salai can be reached at ssalai@washingtontimes.com.

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