The Importance of Child Psychologists in Internet Regulation

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has expressed its intention to hire at least one child psychologist to aid in its work on internet regulation, according to Democratic Commissioner Alvaro Bedoya in an interview with The Record. The plan, which has the support of FTC Chair Lina Khan, aims to assess the mental health impacts of online activities on children and young people. Bedoya hopes that this initiative will come to fruition by next fall, but the commission has not yet established a firm timeline. The FTC spokesperson, Douglas Farrar, stated that they are currently exploring the next steps in implementing this plan, including the number of psychologists to hire and the timeframe for recruitment.

The FTC’s plan mirrors a broader push across the United States government to enhance online protections for children and teenagers. Lawmakers at the federal and state levels have proposed new legislation with the aim of making the internet safer. These proposals involve stronger age verification methods and increased responsibility for tech companies to create secure products for young users. In May, the U.S. Surgeon General issued an advisory highlighting the significant mental health risks associated with young people’s use of social media. The FTC’s decision to hire child psychologists demonstrates its commitment to its role as an expert agency by expanding its expertise beyond the traditional legal and economic domains.

The presence of an in-house child psychologist would be a valuable resource for FTC commissioners like Bedoya. He emphasized the importance of having access to specialists who can provide expert advice in areas such as mental health. While the FTC currently seeks guidance from ad hoc consultants, having a child psychologist on staff would signal a permanent commitment to addressing these issues. Bedoya believes that experts in child psychology can provide crucial insights that will help establish links between specific actions and the alleged harm caused. This understanding would inform the appropriate damages sought by the agency. Child psychologists could also assist the FTC in evaluating the impact of social media on mental health and identifying deceptive features like dark patterns.

Bedoya anticipates that the initial hires for the FTC’s child psychologist positions would likely be psychological scientists or social psychologists who specialize in research rather than clinical evaluation. Their primary tasks would revolve around conducting investigations, developing strategies, and potentially contributing to the rulemaking process. While Bedoya refrained from making assumptions about specific responsibilities, he emphasized the necessity of having experts in the field who can support the FTC’s mission effectively.

The FTC’s plan to hire child psychologists underscores the agency’s commitment to assessing the mental health impacts of online activities on children and young people. This initiative aligns with broader efforts to strengthen online protections for kids and teens across the United States. By adding child psychologists to its staff, the FTC aims to enhance its expertise and ensure that it can effectively address the psychological aspects of internet regulation. These experts will provide valuable insights that can inform the agency’s decisions and help establish the appropriate measures to protect young users in the digital landscape.

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