(WASHINGTON, D.C.) -- Yesterday, Congresswoman Jennifer Wexton (D-VA) and Congressman Jamie Raskin (D-MD), members of the Congressional Task Force on Digital Citizenship, hosted a virtual roundtable discussion on screen addiction and the pressures felt by many to be part of virtual communities, especially children and young adults. Wexton and Raskin were joined in the roundtable by Jon Hyatt, Director of “Screened Out”; Jim Steyer, founder of Common Sense Media; Dr. Michael Rich, Director of the Center on Media and Child Health (CMCH) at Boston Children’s Hospital; and Dr. Jenny Radesky, M.D., a pediatrician and expert on children and media at the University of Michigan’s C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital.

Wexton, Raskin, and the panelists discussed key portions of the new documentary, “Screened Out,” which examines how social media, smartphones, tablets, and a range of platforms and devices have fundamentally changed the way we communicate and operate in an increasingly digital world. The documentary explores the addictive-like behaviors that many adults and children have experienced with technology screens and digital platforms.

The full roundtable discussion can be viewed here with permission for widespread distribution. 

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The virtual roundtable took place as Mental Health Awareness Month comes to a close, at a time when families are spending more time online and in front of their screens as a result of the COVID-19 crisis.

The panelists discussed tactics used by social media companies to manipulate their users into joining and spending time on their platforms, including a clip from the documentary showing former Facebook president Sean Parker describing the “social validation feedback loop” strategy used by the company.

The conversation also focused on the impact of this addictive-like behavior to screens and social media on the long-term development of children, including social development, communication skills, and mental health and well-being. The panelists spoke about the need for Congressional action to support research that would help parents, teachers, and health experts better understand how technology and media are affecting children’s cognitive and physical development. That includes the bipartisan and bicameral Children and Media Research Advancement (CAMRA) Act, sponsored by Rep. Raskin and cosponsored by Rep. Wexton, to authorize a comprehensive research program under the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for this purpose.

The Congressional Task Force on Digital Citizenship was founded in April 2020 by Congresswoman Wexton to better equip Americans with tools and resources to use technology and engage online responsibly. This virtual roundtable marks the first event put on by the new Task Force.