opinion | What is one of the most dangerous toys for children? The Internet.

We all know how hard it can be to close our social media apps and walk away from our devices. One more role, we tell ourselves. Another look at a link. And then, suddenly, we’re deep down the rabbit hole of yet another food.

These apps are addictive by design. We know this. And we know very well who makes a bundle of our weaknesses. (Hello, Mark Zuckerberg!) But we still can’t help it.

So if we adults are seemingly powerless against such digital temptation, where are our children?

In the Opinion Video above, children share what they know about how the Internet works (not much) and how much they use it (a lot).

“I think I want to get rid of this thing,” one young girl confesses, “but then I just say, ‘No! More YouTube! More Instagram! More TikTok!’”

And as kids experience this kind of dopamine rush, tech companies — in a drive to maximize engagement and thus profits — are collecting their data without their overt consent, while also exposing them to adult content and caustic judgment from peers.

Online privacy rules in the United States designed to protect young children are either woefully outdated or easily circumvented. But pending legislation introduced in May by Senators Edward J. Markey, a Democrat from Massachusetts, and Bill Cassidy, a Republican from Louisiana, those rules would be updated by banning targeted advertising to children and raising the age of Internet users whose data cannot be collected without their consent. consent from 12 to 15, among other measures.

It’s time, we argue, for the government to modernize the country’s internet privacy rules and protect the internet’s youngest explorers much better from harm.

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