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Letter to the Editor: Kids Deserve a Healthy Balance Between Online Safety and Access for Support

Dear Community Reporter,

I appreciate the conversation our state is having to keep children protected online as the prevalence of social media and digital platforms continues to grow within a child’s education and early development. At the same time, lawmakers and leaders must carefully consider how some aspects of the Age-Appropriate Design Code (AADC) will limit access to crucial online safe spaces for marginalized groups.

Minnesota is one of the most inclusive and welcoming states for LGBTQ+ individuals, but recent studies illustrate that many of our state’s students report feeling unable to express themselves and are regularly exposed to anti-LGTBQ+ remarks at school. To make matters worse, many LGBTQ+ students in Minnesota indicate not having access to in-school resources and support.

While we are working to improve in-person and community resources, online communities remain critically important. LGBTQ+ youth have increasingly turned to social media as a place to find resources and a supportive community. To many kids, especially in the Black community where they already feel marginalized because of race, these online spaces could be some of the only sources of external validation for their identities.

Unfortunately, the Age-Appropriate Design Code could restrict access to these vital resources and portals for self-discovery and support. Requiring more data collection on Minnesota’s kids and forcing online platforms to decide what content is in the “best interest” of children – without giving guidelines – could result in unintended consequences for diverse communities. If we aim to uphold Minnesota’s reputation as an inclusive and welcoming place for children, it’s imperative to consider these potential impacts. Let’s strive to establish online security while also creating digital safe spaces for children who may otherwise lack such environments.

Curtis Shelmon

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