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As parents with three teenagers at home, we find ourselves at a unique intersection of personal experience and professional expertise when it comes to the pressing challenge of youth online safety. Between Rebecca's expertise in developmental child psychology and Peter's wide-ranging experience in software and IT, we both think daily about the digital world's impact on not just our children, but on all young people.

In today's digital age, parenting teens is harder than ever. The teen years are when friendships and navigating new social networks become critically important — a key developmental milestone. It's common to hear kids complain about a "fear of missing out." The truth is that there's a fear that affects parents, too, on behalf of our kids. We don't want to be put in the position of the bad guy who says no — we all want to see our kids safe, healthy, fulfilled and happy.

That's why we want to see a safer internet for every kid in Minnesota, including the skyrocketing numbers of young people in our state struggling with anxiety, depression, eating disorders, self-harm and even suicidal thoughts that are too often linked to online interactions.

Our legislators have developed an innovative and impactful answer in the Minnesota Kids Code. This bill would level the playing field to ensure that all kids, regardless of their background, have basic protections in the digital world. It's about time we had a law that sees the internet through the eyes of its youngest users, safeguarding their freedom to learn, explore and grow safely.

We're not anti-tech. In fact, quite the opposite — we know tech is everywhere and we want our kids to be thoughtful, intentional, critical users of tech. And while we use parental controls to limit screen time and require approvals for apps, we also give our teens room to explore online, knowing it's part of growing up. But as they navigate this digital world, we're adamant about protecting their privacy and mental health.

Our approach to parenting in this digital age is balanced. We recognize the inherent desire for connection that adolescence brings. We advocate for open conversations about screen time and digital engagement, understanding that preparing our children for independence involves guided exposure to the internet. However, the need for external safeguards still remains.

The issue of data privacy and ownership the Minnesota Kids Code would address is central to our concerns. In an era where children's data is bought and sold in online advertising markets, questions about who owns a child's identity and how the data is used in AI development are pressing. The notion that nobody should own a child's identity is fundamental, yet the current digital ecosystem fails to safeguard this principle.

On the technical side, witnessing the internet's evolution from a place of techno-optimism to a commercial landscape riddled with commodification and data privacy breaches has been alarming. Certain Big Tech companies show startling negligence in data security and privacy, which is especially disturbing when it concerns our children.

That's why we stand behind the Kids Code: because it's proactive, not reactive. It doesn't just slap a bandage on the issue; it reimagines how digital platforms should be designed and operated — with young users' interests in mind. These are basic consumer protections we should think of as the digital equivalent of a car's parking brake — a non-negotiable standard feature for safety.

In Minnesota, it's time to bring some common sense to kids' relationship with tech. The Minnesota Kids Code is a statement that our kids' safety isn't up for negotiation. In a world where algorithms seek to define so much of our children's self-worth, it's our duty as parents to push back. Please join us in calling on our legislators to pass this bill for all our children.

Rebecca Shlafer is an associate professor in the Division of General Pediatrics and Adolescent Health at the University of Minnesota. Peter Nealy works in tech. They live with their four children in Minnetonka.