In an effort to strengthen its approach to internet regulation, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is considering the hiring of child psychologists. The plan, backed by FTC Chair Lina Khan, aims to assess the mental health impacts of children and young people’s online activities. This move aligns with a broader focus on online protections for kids and teens within the U.S. government, as lawmakers propose new legislation and the Surgeon General highlights the mental health risks associated with social media use.
The FTC’s decision to consider hiring child psychologists demonstrates its commitment to becoming an expert agency. As the agency previously added economists and technologists to its staff, the inclusion of child psychologists would further enhance their expertise. Democratic Commissioner Alvaro Bedoya, founder of the Center on Privacy & Technology, believes that having in-house child psychologists would provide valuable resources for commissioners. This in-house expertise would allow for better evaluation of allegations related to mental health harms and provide insights into the appropriate damages sought by the agency.
The FTC’s plan to hire child psychologists is part of an ongoing effort to expand its expertise systematically. By incorporating professionals with backgrounds in psychology and mental health, the FTC would strengthen its ability to assess the impact of online platforms on the well-being of children and young users. This move indicates a proactive approach by the agency to address concerns related to social media’s influence on mental health.
Child psychologists within the FTC would bring valuable insights into the psychological impacts of social media and online activities. By leveraging their expertise, the agency would be better equipped to evaluate allegations and investigate potential mental health harms. These experts would play a crucial role in assessing the impact of features such as dark patterns and deceptive practices employed by tech companies. Their research-oriented approach would contribute to investigations, strategy development, and potentially even rulemaking.
According to Bedoya, hiring child psychologists as full-time staff members would send a strong signal to other law enforcement agencies in the U.S. It would demonstrate the importance of having dedicated experts in-house to understand and address the mental health implications of online activities. This strategic move would establish a standing capacity within the FTC, indicating its commitment to proactively safeguarding the well-being of children and young people online.
The plan to hire child psychologists within the FTC marks a significant step towards more comprehensive internet regulation. By incorporating experts in psychology and mental health, the agency demonstrates its dedication to evaluating the mental health impacts of online activities on children and young users. These professionals will provide essential insights, linking alleged harm to its causes and informing the appropriate measures needed to protect young internet users. As the FTC continues to expand its expertise, it reinforces its role as an expert agency responsible for addressing the evolving challenges of the digital age.