TEXAS VIEW: Follow Cruz’s urgency, support Kids Online Safety Act

THE POINT: Parents and government officials have crossed political lines to join together to fight against online attacks aimed at children.

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, who was in San Antonio for a Chamber of Commerce luncheon recently, said it’s urgent to get the Kids Online Safety Act before President Joe Biden.

The KOSA legislation, introduced by Sens. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., and Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., would require tech and social media companies to default to the most stringent privacy and safety settings, rather than having youth and parents navigate often complicated platforms.

“I’m confident we’re going to pass this on the Senate floor. We’re going to pass it on the House (floor). And it’s going to be signed into law,” Cruz said. “I’m not going to suggest to you that KOSA is going to solve everything; we’re going to have a lot more work to do protecting our kids. … But it is a serious and meaningful step forward.”

The federal legislation, which U.S. Sen. John Cornyn has co-sponsored, follows state reforms and comes after David Molak, a 16-year-old who had attended Alamo Heights High School, took his own life in 2016 following relentless cyberbullying.

His mother, Maurine Molak, co-founder of David’s Legacy, was joined recently by Brian Montgomery from Mississippi and Kristin Bride from Oregon. Montgomery lost his teenage son to suicide after a sextortion scam, and Bride lost her son to suicide after he was cyberbullied through cellphones and apps.

“It’s hard to be a parent, it’s even harder to be a teenager,” Cruz said. “We’ve got a crises of depression, and we’ve got a crisis of suicide among our kids.”

In Texas, state lawmakers passed David’s Law, which took effect in 2017 and requires school districts to investigate off-campus cyberbullying and notify parents when their child is a victim, witness or an aggressor. Then came David’s Law 2.0, which took effect in 2021. This reform requires schools to teach about cyberbullying, create committees to address online harassment and regularly survey school culture.

Cruz said the precise details of KOSA are being negotiated.

We’ve had our differences with Cruz on any number of issues, including gun safety after the Uvalde school shooting. But he’s absolutely right to push this issue and call for bipartisan urgency to support the health and well-being of children in digital spaces.

San Antonio Express-News