Chicago parents attend Senate hearing with big tech CEOs on protecting kids online

February 19th, 2024

CHICAGO (CBS) — Two Chicago parents were in the front row on Capitol Hill on Wednesday as the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee pushed big tech executives to do more to protect children from sexual exploitation on social media. Rose and Rob Bronstein, of Chicago, lost their son Nate to suicide after he was cyberbullied by classmates. He was just 15 years old. They said he was bullied by his classmates to the point that he didn’t want to live to see his future.

“He was a bright, very energetic kid,” Rob said.

They said those who knew Nate knew his humor and encyclopedic knowledge of sports. But he was bullied through texts and Snapchat messages, his parents said. “I don’t even have the words to describe the pain that I live in every single day,” said Rose. U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Illinois) chaired Wednesday’s committee hearing to urge big tech to do more to safeguard children who often get hooked on apps and social media sites. The Bronsteins were in the same room as the CEOs of TikTok, Snap, X, formerly known as Twitter, Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, and Discord.

Lawmakers want to pass more protective regulations, and make it easier for parents to sue tech companies. Asked if it should be parents or tech companies who should be responsible for keeping kids safe online, Durbin said “parents are fighting a losing battle.” “Parents doing their very best cannot keep up with this technology, and these companies have the singular responsibility to police this,” the Illinois senator said.

“I’m sorry for everything you have all been through,” Zuckerberg said. “No one should go through the things that your families have suffered and this is why we invest so much and we are going to continue doing industry-wide efforts to make sure no one has to go through the things your families have had to suffer.” Zuckerberg and other social media CEOs touted their child safety procedures online. Meta has previously said that it has spent $5 billion on safety and security in 2023. But the Bronsteins were now swayed by Zuckerberg’s words.

“I don’t think it was particularly genuine,” said Rob. “I think he was shamed into it.” Still, the parents were hopeful the hearing was a turning point that could save other parents from living with pain. “It’s now time to hold these CEOs accountable for their lack of duty of care and for turning a blind eye to how harmful their platforms and products are to our children,” said Rose. The Bronsteins said advocacy work keeps them going. They started a nonprofit called Buckets Over Bullying to help fight cyberbullying through basketball, Nate’s favorite sport.


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