Iberia Parish family lobbying for social media act to pass to protect minors

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IBERIA PARISH, La. (KLFY) — Toney and Brandy Roberts are pleading to Louisiana Congressman and Speaker of the House Mike Johnson for him to help pass legislation that would address the range of issues they and other families have gone through.

The bipartisan Kids Online Safety Act (KOSA), could provide parents with the resources, safeguards and transparency needed to protect youth against online dangers.

“There has been no prom. There has been no graduation. There will be no wedding. There will be no grandchildren. So many families are experiencing that,” Toney Roberts said as he describes the realizations of what he and his wife have experienced since their daughter’s passing.

In September 2020, the couple’s 14-year-old daughter Englyn took her own life. The Roberts said they were unaware of the issues their daughter was facing until afterward when they noticed her social media posts and shares hinting at her depression. When they found out about KOSA, they immediately took action reaching out to lawmakers who can pass the act and prevent more families from experiencing what they have.

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“It gives parents and again, educators a channel to report harmful online behavior, giving them a direct line to the social media companies so they can remove harmful content,” Toney Roberts said.

If passed, KOSA would require social media platforms to take reasonable measures to ensure safety for minors. Applying certain safeguards like restricting algorithms from posting content not meant for minors and allow guardians to have tools to supervise their kids on the platforms. Brandy and Toney Roberts urge Congressman Mike Johnson to immediately pass KOSA to prevent further tragedies from happening.

“It gets to the very root of the problem that it’s going to hold social media companies responsible, that they won’t be able to put their profits over child safety,” Brandy Roberts said.

The Roberts and other families across the state who have experienced a loss just like them are asking KOSA to be included with the larger legislative package that must be passed or extended by midnight on Friday.

Below is the letter sent to Congressman Mike Johnson by the Roberts and other families pleading for him to pass KOSA:

An Open Letter to Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives and Louisiana Congressman Mike Johnson:

We write to you as parents who have lived through our worst nightmare — each of us has lost a child to the dangers of social media. We are just a few of the families in Louisiana whose children have suffered from the potentially deadly hazards of online platforms.

Every day, children in America are exposed to harmful content that puts them at risk for anxiety, depression, eating disorders, online harassment, sexual abuse, exploitation, self-harm, and suicide.

Like Englyn Roberts, who hung herself by imitating the violent videos Instagram promoted to her. She was just 14-years-old. And Emma Claire Gill, whose addiction to social media led her to take her life within just one year of accessing SnapChat. And Brantley Aranda, whose obsession with Facebook grew out of hand within a matter of months. One day, after attending church with his family, he went home and shot himself.

While we try to do the seemingly impossible task of mourning the loss of our children, we write in hopes that our grief can help other families.

Speaker Johnson — you have an opportunity to protect children from the deadly harms of online platforms — harms our own children suffered because there was no such protection for them. We urge you to immediately pass the Kids Online Safety Act (KOSA) amendment, introduced by Senators Blackburn and Blumenthal.

KOSA is the only bill that would address the wide range of harms that young people experience online and will save countless children’s lives. By passing the KOSA amendment, you would bring us closer to a world where no family has to go through what we have.

We wish we didn’t have to write this letter — we would rather be with our children. But as Louisianans and most importantly — parents — we pray that you will take this chance to protect future generations.


Toney and Brandy Roberts (Iberia Parish)

Darla and Joseph Gill (Winn Parish)

Blair Fitzpatrick Aranda (Jackson Parish)

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