Sen. Ram Hinsdale, Rep. Priestley Introduce Landmark Bill to Protect Kids Online

For Immediate Release

Vermont Kids Code Builds on Growing Safety-By-Design Legislation Momentum

Advocates applaud lawmakers’ commitment to youth digital security & privacy

MONTPELIER – Senator Kesha Ram Hinsdale and Representative Monique Priestley today announced their sponsorship and introduction of the Vermont Kids Code, legislation to make technology safer for young users and protect their privacy. Advocates including parents, families, educators and medical professionals hailed the lawmakers’ introduction of the age-appropriate design code bills (S.289 /H.712) as a landmark step in efforts to protect children and teens online.

“Despite skyrocketing rates of youth depression, anxiety, eating disorders and overdoses, technology companies purposely design their products to keep kids on screens as much as possible,” said Sen. Ram Hinsdale. “With the Vermont Kids Code, we’re instituting common-sense consumer protections to ensure that digital products, just like physical ones, are designed safely and age-appropriately.”

Supported by 8 sponsors in the Senate and 28 bipartisan sponsors in the House, the consumer protection bill would require online products reasonably likely to be accessed by children under 18 to be designed with young users’ best interests in mind and to protect their privacy. Momentum has grown behind similar bills introduced in Maryland, Minnesota, New Mexico and Nevada; meanwhile, age-appropriate design provisions are already in effect abroad.

“Every day, I am hearing serious concern from families, medical experts, and educators about the dangers kids face in today’s digital world. I am proud we’re stepping up to take action here in Vermont,” said Rep. Priestley. “The Vermont Kids Code would require Big Tech to implement basic protections for kids as well as hold them accountable if they choose to put a child’s well-being at risk.”

The legislation’s introduction follows a lawsuit about social media’s impact on the health and well-being of children filed by over 40 state Attorneys General, including Vermont’s, suing Instagram and Facebook owner Meta for intentionally designing addictive and harmful products. The Kids Code would address extractive practices outlined by Attorney General Charity Clark in the lawsuit, including the use of extortive privacy practices, such as rampant data collection and addictive features such as infinite scroll and autoplay. 

“Our kids’ time is being monopolized by online platforms and apps that are neither safe nor private, knowingly designed that way by the companies to extort as much profit as possible from our children,” said the Vermont Kids Code Coalition. “This is a public health crisis that parents, teachers, and health professionals struggle with every day, which is why we’re so thankful to Sen. Hinsdale and Rep. Priestley for their leadership and we’re calling on all state legislators to support the Vermont Kids Code and pass it into law.”

Specific provisions in the legislation would protect Vermont kids online by requiring companies to conduct risk assessments evaluating whether design features could be addictive or harmful; ensuring all settings for children are set to high privacy by default; providing easily accessible reporting tools for privacy and behavior concerns; and prohibiting covered platforms from collecting and retaining any personal information from children that is not necessary for the service being provided.

Growing momentum for state legislative action:

Why we need action: