By David Gay
INDIANAPOLIS — Through his “Safe Online” plan, Indiana gubernatorial candidate Brad Chambers is highlighting the need to protect Hoosier children from the “dangers and harms” caused by “excessive use of digital and social media.”
Chambers, a Republican and the former Indiana secretary of commerce, recently released his new online-centered plan. “Safe Online” also covers other topics, like children’s access to inappropriate material and pornographic websites on the internet.
According to previous reports, Chambers has also released his “Protect and Serve” plan, centered around his plans to support first responders and approach public safety if he is elected governor.
“Social media and other digital platforms can offer positive benefits for young people, including access to educational resources, strengthening connections and relationships with physically distant family members and friends and building communities of shared interests,” Chambers said on his website. “Increasingly compelling evidence indicates, however, that the benefits are being outweighed by the negative impacts on the healthy development of children’s brains, their mental health, ability to succeed academically, and on their overall social development and well-being. That is why I am proposing the Safe Online plan, which will protect Hoosier children online so they can lead safer, healthier and more fulfilling lives.”
Chambers’ “Safe Online” plan includes:
- Require stricter age verification
- Chambers is advocating to require age verification for the use of all digital platforms that can have harmful effects on children, including social media, gaming platforms and websites that distribute or display pornographic material.
- To do this, Chambers said he would consult with online industry experts and the state legislature to “determine the most reliable age verification system to ensure children are protected and parents are empowered to manage and monitor the online presence” of their children.
- “Companies found in violation of the ‘Safe Online’ plan’s verification requirements will be subject to penalties,” the website read.
- Enhance and expand online data protections for children
- Chambers is advocating to limit the ability of online companies to collect, use or sell data related to users under the age of 18.
- The plan said it would limit geolocation tracking for verified youth social media accounts only to applications that allow parents and/or guardians to know the location of their children.
- Chambers said this would “help protect children from online companies collecting and selling data, as well as from potential predators who may have been able to access location data without the child’s knowledge or awareness.
- Require youth social media accounts to be automatically set to “private” mode
- Mandate that verified youth social media accounts are unable to receive direct messages from unknown users and those they have not already accepted as a “friend” or “follower.”
- Enforce penalties on online companies that fail to prevent children from accessing pornographic materal
- Chambers said he will work with the state legislature to define the parameters and implement additional civil or criminal penalties for companies that “do not take the appropriate steps to prevent children from accessing pornographic content online.”
- Ensure age-appropriate education about online dangers
- Chambers said he would work with the Indiana Department of Education to ensure age-appropriate classroom instruction to educate children on the benefits, as well as the risks and dangers, associated with social media and other online activity.
Chambers said on his website that companies that are found in violation of the plan’s verification requirements and data protection provisions will be subject to penalties.