In partnership with Representative Susan Pulsipher and the National Center and Sexual Exploitation (NCOSE), Protect Young Eyes helped craft device filtering legislation that recently passed the Utah legislature and has now been signed by Governor Cox!
Despite significant opposition from Big Tech, lobbyists from retailers, manufacturers, the ACLU, and DC attorneys, Utah made the decision to give parents and kids a powerful first-step solution to online safety.
What does the Device Filtering Amendment do?
The Device Filter Amendment (HB 72) requires manufacturers of smartphones and tablets activated in the state of Utah to enable existing filters that block out sexually explicit material that is “harmful to minors” under Utah law. We are already working with other states on bringing forth similar legislation.
PYE Founder Chris McKenna gave virtual testimony in two separate hearings in front of the Utah House and Senate. He worked closely with attorneys from the Representative’s office and NCOSE to craft a technically elegant and simple solution, all while preserving choice for consenting adults, constitutionality, and avoiding commerce clause issues that often arise with this type of state-level legislation.
Currently, virtually all smartphones and tablets have filters (e.g., Apple’s Screen Time or Google’s Family Link), but they are turned to OFF when sold. This bill simply requires the filters to be turned ON when activated in Utah. Adults are not prohibited from accessing such material and are given a PIN to remove the filter for their own use if they choose to do so. Children will not receive PINs to deactivate the filters.
What are the benefits of HB 72?
Chris offered the following three critical outcomes from this legislation during his testimony:
- First, this is a bill that simplifies a complex process for Utah families. Large organizations like Apple and Google already have solutions like Screen Time and Family Link. But, set-up can feel complex, often taking 20 or more steps to set up correctly.
- Second, because of this simplification, we will prevent early, accidental exposure to potentially life-altering sexually explicit content for Utah children. From the young boy in my son’s cub scout unit who found pornography on an unprotected iPad to the teen girls who have confided anonymously through our website about their curiosity-driven, early childhood exposures that led to lonely, shame-filled teen (and adult) years hooked on porn.
- And, the third outcome is this legislation acts as an amazingly simple, effective, and inexpensive public awareness campaign for Utah families, elevating their knowledge about parental controls on smartphones and tablets.
Dawn Hawkins, Senior Vice President and Executive Director for NCOSE, added:
“There are countless heartbreaking stories of the harm caused by children’s unhindered access to Internet devices—including the individual and familial trauma of pornography exposure and addiction and adult predators targeting and grooming kids online. We commend the Utah legislature for passing this bill that will aid parents in protecting their children from unwanted exposure to pornography.”
An important stipulation in the bill is that five additional states must pass similar legislation in order for the bill to go into effect. We already have states lining up! We fully expect increased opposition with each state but we are ready.
About Protect Young Eyes
Founded in 2015, Protect Young Eyes is a leading voice showing families, schools, and churches how to create safer digital spaces for young people. We do this by creating content that is reliable, practical, and easy to use. Our team of presenters performs hundreds of talks annually and mini-lessons in the Protect App meet busy, amazing families right where they are. Available for Apple or Google.
Chris McKenna, Founder: A man with never ending energy when it comes to fighting for the safety and protection of children. Chris practices his internet safety tips on his four amazing children and is regularly featured on news, radio, and podcasts for his research. His 2019 US Senate Judiciary Committee testimony was the catalyst for draft legislation and on-going discussion that could radically change online child protection laws and earned PYE the NCOSE Dignity Defense Alert Award in 2020. The PYE team has performed over 1,300 presentations at schools, churches, and nonprofits and was featured in the Childhood 2.0 movie. When not leading PYE, Chris is the Digital Marketing Manager for Covenant Eyes. Other loves include running, spreadsheets, nature, and candy.