Minnesota Kids Code rally at State Capitol: Advocates call for a vote on historic bill to protect kids and teens online

Paul, MN – Today, dozens of youth advocates joined lawmakers and other Minnesota Kids Code Coalition leaders for a State Capitol Day of Action to urge lawmakers to vote on the Minnesota Kids Code (HF2257/SF2810). The Day of Action began with a press conference featuring author Rep. Kristin Bahner joined by youth, parents, educators, and doctor advocates and sponsored by Good Trouble, SAVE, and Parents Together Action.

“Let’s be blunt, online products are designed to prioritize profits over our kids. Harmful products are harmful products,” said Rep. Bahner. “I believe in the promise of tech, as someone who works in the industry. I know what’s possible, and that is why I am confident that the Minnesota Kids Code is the right solution.”

Shamail Henderson and her mother Shama Tolbert spoke about Shamail’s experience being lured into sex trafficking, a harrowing experience that was the result of design features on platforms allowing adult strangers to message minors.

“By the age of 14, older men, strangers to me, began appearing as suggested friends on Facebook and other platforms. Naively, I accepted their requests, unaware of their intentions and blind to the dangers ahead,” said Henderson. “Here I am, declaring with all my might: no more.”

Advocate Bridgette Norring tragically lost her son who was sold fentanyl on Snapchat. She said lawmakers should hold tech companies accountable in order to protect other families from heartbreak.

“Every other product our children touch – from the car seat we bring them home in to  fireproof pajamas – they are required to meet specific safety requirements to be sold for use by kids, our most protected consumers. Tech shouldn’t be an exception,” said Norring.“I’m here the day after the anniversary of my child’s death because not one more child should have to die to protect big tech profits.”

After the press conference, the coalition hosted a rally in the Capitol Rotunda, where dozens of students from Minnesota high schools and colleges joined together to advocate for the passage of the bill. Erich Mishe, Executive Director of SAVE – Suicide Awareness Voices of Education, spoke to the students about how this bill could help save lives.

“I can think of no greater way to prevent suicide among our youth than to pass the Minnesota Kids Code,” Mische said. “The Minnesota Kids Code doesn’t stifle free speech. It doesn’t compromise privacy or block youth from the positive benefits of social media. It doesn’t impose burdens on the press. It simply demands accountability from those who profit from our youth’s misery.”  

To end the Day of Action, students and constituents continued to make their voices heard by visiting legislators and urging them to take immediate action to pass the Minnesota Kids Code.