Anti-cyber bullying bills could become law due to growing concerns about safety

May 29, 2024 /

At our state capitol on May 14 leaders met to discuss several bills authored by California Senator Henry Stern that would help families battle negative effects from cyberbullying. However SB 1444, Let Parents Choose Protection Act or Sammy’s Law was scrapped during voting. Only SB 1504 Cyberbullying Protection Act and SB 1283 Pupils: use of smartphones and social media remain eligible to become potential laws.

SB 1504 was passed in the state senate floor and has moved to assembly on May 21. The bill plans on pushing social media to visibly show cyberbullying safeguards on the website. The media or gaming company also must give a timely response within 36 hours from when reports of online abuse are made and a reconfirmation of the victim’s rights to enforce an app’s or website’s safety policies.

SB 1283 Pupils: use of smartphones and social media did make it to Senate voting. It acknowledges the harm of cyberbullying on social media platforms and targets phone use at school aiming to restrict or limit screen time.

Stern represents District 27 which covers parts of Santa Clarita, Simi Valley, and Los Angeles.

“I’m here reluctantly as the author of two bills that have far too many victims left in their wake, we’re here to talk about the dangers that parents and families and kids know all too well online,” Stern stated back on May 14 during a press event.

He continued, “Whether it comes to the use of social media platforms to do harm to our students through the fentanyl crisis, or whether it’s the impacts of cyberbullying and the lack of accountability from the largest corporations in our planet we think it’s time for a change here in Sacramento.”

Last year in May the United States Surgeon General issued a major warning about the adverse effects social media has on children under 17 years of age mental health. They reported that kids were using electronic devices for social media daily, while some stated they felt addicted.

Over 71 percent of minors in the report stated they use social media to connect to friends, however, the platforms themselves have increasingly grown into a harmful environment. Over half of kids online are exposed to violent and sexual content, bullying, harassment, or online stalking.

The press conference brought together youth and their families who survived cyberbullying as speakers alongside state officials who co-authored the bills. If you’re interested in viewing the whole press event it is available for streaming on YouTube.

Samuel P. Chapman, the father to Sammy who one of the bills is named after, spoke in support of both bills at the press event.

“The social media companies are solving the ‘last-mile’ problem for the drug dealers, and California houses a lot of these social media companies,” Chapman stated.

Senator Rosilicie Ochoa Bogh is a co-author to SB 1504. She attended the press event to speak about how the bill empowers families.

Bogh said, “It’s imperative that we do our part as legislatures to ensure that we have safety guards within technology, within the internet in order to help assist our parents our educators and our children, and bring awareness to the children that it is dangerous out there.”

In Kern County bullying has left deep scars on the community. In 2011 Tehachapi lost Seth Walsh, a 13-year-old boy who was reportedly bullied for years due to his sexual orientation. California legislatures passed Seth’s Laws due to public pressures to hold school districts accountable for bullying that is caused by a student’s sexual orientation or identity, race, and ethnicity.

To this day Seth’s Law stands as one of the only official laws families and victims of cyberbullying can refer to for legal empowerment since 2012. For more information check out the laws fact sheet from the American Civil Liberties Union of California.

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