WASHINGTON, D.C. — Bonded together by unimaginable tragedy, a group of 20 grieving parents traveled to Capitol Hill this week from around the country to be the voices for their kids.
Each of them say they lost a child to the dangers of social media.
“My son Nate Bronstein, forever 15, was viciously cyberbullied over Snapchat by his classmates and basketball teammates,” said Rose Bronstein.
Nate tragically died by suicide in 2022.
“A drug dealer contacted our son on Snapchat, and he delivered a lethal dose of fentanyl like a pizza to our house, and we found Sammy dead on the floor,” said Sam Chapman.
Chapman is fighting for lawmakers to pass a proposal named after his son Sammy.
Sammy’s Law would require social media companies to provide a third-party software that alerts parents about dangerous content like messages about bullying, drug use and eating disorders.
“Parents could parent again in the online environment,” said Chapman. “Our children are internet natives and we are not, and we need a technological solution to warn us when there is danger.”
“In our son’s case, if I had had the opportunity to have third-party software on my phone and on my son’s phone, as soon as he had received those threatening messages, specifically the kill yourself message, I would have been alerted and my husband and I would have had the opportunity to intervene and protect him,” said Rose Bronstein.
They’re also pushing for other proposals like the bipartisan Kids Online Safety Act, which is backed by dozens of Senators, and outlines requirements for social media companies to take “reasonable measures” to protect kids from online harms.
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Earlier this week, Senators grilled CEOs of social media companies over what lawmakers say is a failure to protect kids online.
“You have blood on your hands,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC).
“The tech industry alone is not to blame for the situation we’re in,” said Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL). “Those of us in Congress need to look in the mirror.”
But despite social media safety being a big focus on Capitol Hill, none of the proposals in Congress have passed into law yet.
“What if this was your child?” said Deb Schmill, whose 18-year-old daughter Becca died from a fentanyl-laced pill she got through social media. “How many kids need to die before they’re going to do something about it?”
“There’s just an enormous failure in the system and I think we just need to hold all the adults accountable,” said Fred Walters, whose 14-year-old daughter Jocelyn died by suicide in 2022. “What I see for a lot of years now is a lot of talk.”
The parents said they are frustrated over the inaction, and they are urging lawmakers to act now.
“This is urgent,” said Rose Bronstein. “We cannot wait any longer. The politics have to be set aside and we need our legislators to move quickly and move now because we are going to continue to have more harm and more death.”
“Whether you’re talking about fentanyl overdoses or cyberbullying, or mental health, or body image issues, they’re all connected and so whatever legislation and regulation needs to be put in place can address a lot,” said Robert Bronstein.
While debates in Congress are ongoing about legislation with no clear end in sight, these parents said they’ll keep fighting to try and prevent other families from enduring the same heartbreaking loss.
“I am here to warn parents with people like you. I feel like the lawmakers, the president, the social media companies are all part of this problem, and it’s time to wake up,” said Chapman. “I’m an accidental activist. I wish I didn’t have to do this, but it’s a calling.”