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Mental Health Update

June 21, 2024
Mental Health Update


For Immediate Release: 6/20/2024 GOVERNOR KATHY HOCHUL



Legislation S.7694A/A.8148A Establishes the SAFE For Kids Act To Put First-in-the-Nation Restrictions on Addictive Social Media Feeds for Minors


Legislation S.7695B/A.8149A Enables the New York Child Data Protection Act To Prohibit Online Sites from Collecting Personal Data of Minors Without Consent


New York Establishes the Nation’s Most Stringent Protections To Safeguard Kids on Social Media


Builds on the Governor’s Ongoing Efforts To Address the Youth Mental Health Crisis



Governor Kathy Hochul today signed nation-leading legislation to combat addictive social media feeds and protect kids online. Legislation S.7694A/A.8148A establishes the Stop Addictive Feeds Exploitation (SAFE) For Kids Act to require social media companies to restrict addictive feeds on their platforms for users under 18. Legislation S.7695B/A.8149A enables the New York Child Data Protection Act to prohibit online sites from collecting, using, sharing or selling personal data of anyone under the age of 18, unless they receive informed consent or unless doing so is strictly necessary for the purpose of the website.


“Young people across the nation are facing a mental health crisis fueled by addictive social media feeds – and New York is leading the way with a new model for addressing the crisis and protecting our kids,” Governor Hochul said. “By reining in addictive feeds and shielding kids’ personal data, we’ll provide a safer digital environment, give parents more peace of mind, and create a brighter future for young people across New York.”


The Governor was joined at today’s bill signing by Attorney General Letitia James and bill sponsors State Senator Andrew Gounardes and State Assemblymember Nily Rozic, marking the culmination of a jointly led push to pass and sign this nation-leading legislation.


With this newly signed legislation, New York has established the nation’s most stringent protections to safeguard kids on social media. This action also builds on Governor Hochul’s ongoing efforts to address the youth mental health crisis.


New York State Attorney General Letitia James said, “Addictive feeds are getting our kids hooked on social media and hurting their mental health, and families are counting on us to help address this crisis. The legislation signed by Governor Hochul today will make New York the national leader in addressing the youth mental health crisis and an example for other states to follow. I applaud the sponsors, Senator Gounardes and Assemblymember Rozic, for working with my office to introduce and advance this legislation, and I thank the legislative leaders for their support of these historic bills. As we move forward with the rulemaking process, my office will work tirelessly to defend these new laws to protect New York children.”


Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said, “As we navigate the threats social media poses to our youth in today’s ever-evolving technological landscape, I’m proud that, under my leadership, the Senate Majority created the Senate’s Internet and Technology Committee to focus on these issues. I thank Governor Hochul, Attorney General James and Bill Sponsor Senator Gounardes for their diligent work on this legislation and collaborating with stakeholders and colleagues to reach an agreement that best supports our youth in achieving healthier social media usage. Together, we will continue to take all necessary actions to protect the mental well-being of our children.”


Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie said, “As technology evolves, so must the ways we protect our kids from harm – both on and offline. These bills will give parents the tools to help protect kids from predatory practices that impact their mental health by eliminating the addictive personalized feeds and will make online privacy the default for New York’s children, preventing companies from collecting and using their data. Thank you to our Assembly sponsor Nily Rozic and to Governor Kathy Hochul, Attorney General Letitia James and our partners in the Senate for all the work they’ve done on this to make online spaces safer for kids.”


The legislation signed today addresses critical challenges facing young people. According to an advisory issued by the U.S. Surgeon General, recent research shows that adolescents who spend more than three hours per day on social media face double the risk of experiencing poor mental health outcomes, such as symptoms of depression and anxiety. Additionally, a recent report from Pew Research Center found that six out of 10 teens say they feel they have little or no control over the personal information that social media companies collect about them.


The SAFE For Kids Act

Addictive feeds, or algorithmically driven feeds, facilitate unhealthy levels of social media use. This legislation will require social media companies to restrict addictive feeds on their platforms for users under 18. Unless parental consent is granted, users under 18 will not receive addictive feeds. Notably, the SAFE for Kids Act is the first bill of its kind to be signed into law in any state across the nation.


Under this law, kids may still use social media. For example, they can continue to search for specific topics of interest or subscribe to creators but will not be subject to algorithmically driven feeds that promote unhealthy levels of engagement. The law will also prohibit social media platforms from sending notifications regarding addictive feeds to minors from 12:00 a.m. to 6:00 a.m. without parental consent. The law will authorize the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) to enforce the law and ensure compliance, including by seeking civil penalties of up to $5,000 per violation, among other remedies. And finally, it calls for the establishment of acceptable age verification and parent consent methods, to be determined by the OAG as part of a rulemaking process.


The New York Child Data Protection Act

This legislation will prohibit online sites and connected devices from collecting, using, sharing or selling personal data of anyone under the age of 18, unless they receive informed consent or unless doing so is strictly necessary for the purpose of the website. It also authorizes the OAG to enforce the law, including by seeking civil penalties of up to $5,000 per violation.


Office of Mental Health Commissioner Dr. Ann Sullivan said, “New York State is once again leading the way by adopting laws to protect our youth from the negative impact of social media and the harmful algorithms they use on their platforms. Under Governor Hochul’s leadership, we are also building out robust mental health services and supports for young people, so they have resources to address the behavioral health challenges they encounter. I commend her commitment to youth mental health and to building a strong system of care in our state that will serve the needs of all New Yorkers.”


Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence Executive Director Kelli Owens said, “We know setting our kids and teens up for online success can help foster healthy minds and healthy relationships in the future, both online and in the real world. Thank you, Governor Hochul, for your dedication to protecting our youth from harmful and addictive social media practices. New York is leading the way, setting an example for other states to follow. Thanks to the investment from the Governor, OPDV is committed to building on this foundation with our work on the upcoming sextortion trainings and awareness campaign.”


State Senator Andrew Gounardes said, “New York is sending a clear message to Big Tech: your profits are not more important than our kids’ privacy and wellbeing. As a father of two young kids, this victory is personal, and I am particularly grateful to the young people, parents, educators, and organizations from across the state who stood up to some of the most powerful companies in the world and demanded a safer digital world. Today would not have been possible without Governor Kathy Hochul’s leadership and steadfast commitment to protecting children from the harms of social media, and I thank her for signing these two critical bills into law. This milestone isn’t just a win for New York’s children — our new laws pave the way for the rest of the country to follow suit. We beat Big Tech, and you can too.”


Assemblymember Nily Rozic said, “Over two decades after child online privacy laws were last updated, the signing of these bills into laws signals that New York is taking the lead in putting New Yorkers’ safety and privacy at the forefront. We are taking decisive action to protect our kids from the harmful influence of addictive algorithms and unchecked data collection enacting the SAFE for Kids Act and the NY Child Data Protection Act. I thank Governor Hochul, Attorney General James, and Senator Gounardes for their unwavering collaborative efforts in order to protect young people in the digital age.”


NYSUT President Melinda Person said, “Protecting children online in the midst of a mental health crisis is common sense, and we are proud that New York is leading the way. The legislation advanced by Attorney General James, Senator Gounardes and Assemblymember Rozic, and signed by Governor Hochul, will take historic action to address the most dangerous aspects of social media. NYSUT educators across the state made their voices heard to support these bills, and we will continue to do everything in our power to safeguard the mental health of our students.”


United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew said, “New York is standing up for our kids by taking on the tech companies and requiring heightened privacy for our children as well as greater protection from the addictive and predatory features of social media platforms. We applaud Gov. Kathy Hochul, Attorney General Tish James, Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, Senator Andrew Gounardes, and Assembly Member Nily Rozic for protecting our children.”


Common Sense Media Founder and CEO James P. Steyer said, “When the state’s most powerful leaders join forces to prioritize the well-being of kids and families over Big Tech’s profits, amazing things can happen. Governor Hochul, Attorney General James, Senator Gounardes, and Assemblywoman Rozic deserve all New Yorkers’ gratitude for fighting for these groundbreaking bills and enacting them into law. Common Sense looks forward to using this win for kids’ online safety and privacy as a model for the nation.”


Mothers Against Media Addiction (MAMA) Founder and Executive Director Julie Scelfo said, “This new legislation to safeguard children from the real-world harms of social media is a major victory for parents and families across New York. We are grateful to Governor Hochul, Attorney General James and the New York legislature for prioritizing the health and well-being of our children over a handful of tech companies, which profit from targeting kids with addictive algorithms and dangerous content. We hope other states will look to New York as a model for how to protect kids online and give them the childhood they deserve.”


Long Island Coalition Against Bullying Founder and Executive Director Joseph A. Salamone said, “This legislation is an extraordinary victory for parents, teachers and young people across our state and sends a clear message that the days of technology companies prioritizing profits over the well being of children, is over. I’m grateful to Governor Hochul for her historic efforts as we work together to build a better future for our children.”


NAMI NYS Executive Director Sharon Horton said, “Throughout this session, NAMI-NYS has stressed the need to address the needs of New York’s future, our youth. It is vitally important that New York addresses the multiple negative stressors contributing to the youth mental health crisis. NAMI-NYS is grateful that Governor Hochul and New York State leaders have taken tremendous steps to advance many crucial measures needed to support our youth and meet them where they are in their mental health journey. This includes leading the nation in working to address the role social media plays in eroding youth mental wellness. We applaud, Governor Hochul, Attorney General James and our legislative leaders for prioritizing our future by addressing the negative impacts of social media and protecting the privacy of our young people. Their leadership on these issues is paving the way toward achieving NAMI-NYS’s vision of a world where all those affected by mental illness, live healthy, fulfilling lives, supported by communities that care.”


Mental Health Association in New York State CEO Glenn Liebman said, “Among the many issues impacting the mental health of young people, addictive social media feeds have become an increasingly serious problem. By signing this landmark legislation, Governor Hochul is leading the way to address that problem by restricting addictive feeds and creating safer spaces for young people online. We greatly appreciate Governor Hochul’s unwavering commitment to protecting the mental health of young people across New York State. We also thank Attorney General James, State Senator Gounardes and Assemblymember Rozic for their tireless work and leadership on this critical issue.”


Pushing the National Discussion Forward

By signing this legislation, Governor Hochul established New York as the leader in creating a safer digital environment for young people. Legislation based on the principles of the SAFE For Kids Act is being considered in California, and advocates have called for other states to introduce similar proposals. Additionally, advocates and other stakeholders have called for greater action at the federal level. For example, in a recent op-ed, as part of a range of new ideas, the U.S. Surgeon General pushed for federal legislation that reflects some elements of the SAFE For Kids Act and New York Child Data Protection Act.


Safeguarding Teens from Online Exploitation

In addition to the legislation signed today, Governor Hochul has also taken other steps to protect young people online. As part of Governor Hochul’s FY25 Enacted Budget, the Governor directed the Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence (OPDV) to develop sextortion-focused training and technical assistance programs as well as a public facing informational website and to conduct a public awareness campaign. The training and technical assistance programs will assist both gender-based violence support organizations and law enforcement agencies seeking to support victims and investigate sextortion crimes. The public-facing website will provide educational materials for guardians and other audiences. The public awareness campaign will use social media platforms to publicize the warning signs of sextortion, technology-facilitated abuse and deepfakes.


Addressing the Youth Mental Health Crisis

As part of the Governor’s $1 billion investment in mental health statewide, Governor Hochul has also significantly expanded access to mental health care and resources for young people and their families. This focus on youth supports and services continued with additional investments secured by the Governor in the FY25 Enacted Budget.


Governor Hochul took steps in her Enacted Budget to expand mental health support for children across the state and ensure their voices are heard, making good on an agenda she unveiled in her State of the State address in January. The Governor announced $20 million in start-up funding for school-based mental health clinics and launched a rolling application, which will make it easier for interested schools to establish these satellites than through the state procurement process previously used. The announcement built on the $5.1 million awarded in November to support 137 new school-based clinics, including 82 at high needs schools, and bringing the total number of clinics to more than 1,200 statewide.


The Governor’s FY25 Enacted Budget also includes an investment of more than $19 million to provide critical care to young people outside of school environments, including increasing resources for youth receiving treatment in their community or, when necessary, in residential care. Key initiatives such as the Youth Assertive Community Treatment teams, which provide wraparound services and support to young people at risk of entering residential or inpatient psychiatric treatment, have been expanded with $9.6 million to continue serving them at home and within their community whenever possible. Additionally, the Governor secured an additional $4 million to support a loan forgiveness program specifically for licensed mental health clinicians serving children and families.