Sen. Muñoz, Rep. Herndon Reintroduce Landmark Bill to Protect Kids Online

For Immediate Release
Wednesday, Jan.17, 2024

New Mexico Kids Code Revisions Build on Growing Safety-By-Design Legislation Momentum

Advocates applaud lawmakers’ commitment to youth digital security & privacy

SANTA FE – Sen. George Muñoz and Rep. Pamelya Herndon today announced their sponsorship and introduction of the New Mexico Kids Code, legislation to make technology safer for young users and protect their privacy. Advocates including parents, families, educators, medical professionals hailed the lawmakers’ reintroduction of the age-appropriate design code bills as a landmark step in efforts to enhance public safety by protecting New Mexico children and teens online.

“Despite skyrocketing rates of youth depression, anxiety, eating disorders and overdoses, technology companies purposely design their products to keep kids on screens as much as possible,” said Sen. Muñoz. “With the New Mexico Kids Code, we’re instituting common-sense consumer protections to ensure that digital products, just like physical ones, are designed safely and age-appropriately. It’s time to stop the predatory tracking of our youth.”

Endorsed by organizations including the New Mexico Pediatric Society, ProgressNow New Mexico, the Social Emotional Learning Alliance for New Mexico and Guardians of the Children Rio Grande, the consumer safety bill would require that tech companies design online products reasonably likely to be accessed by children under 18 with young users’ best interests in mind while protecting their privacy. 

“Passing this age-appropriate design code legislation is another step toward keeping the children in New Mexico safe from fraud and harmful activity that could affect them for the rest of their lives,” said Rep. Herndon. “In New Mexico, we take pride in growing our own. We want our children to grow in a safe, supportive environment.” 

The legislation’s introduction follows a lawsuit about social media’s impact on the health and well-being of children filed by over 40 state Attorneys General, including New Mexico’s, suing Instagram and Facebook owner Meta for intentionally designing addictive and harmful products. The Kids Code framework has already been implemented abroad to address risks identified by Attorney General Raúl Torrez in that lawsuit, which include online grooming and solicitation. For example, in the U.K. and Ireland, TikTok no longer allows adult strangers to message children and teens under 18.

“We can’t keep standing by while tech companies recklessly expose young people to unacceptable risks in the name of profit,” said the New Mexico Kids Code Coalition. “Our coalition of parents, teachers, and health professionals is thankful to Sen. Muñoz and Rep. Herndon for leading this critical effort to protect New Mexico kids and teens online. We can’t let the billion-dollar tech industry lobby get in the way of public safety in the name of profits.  We urge legislators heading back to Santa Fe this week to pass the New Mexico Kids Code into law.”

Building on momentum from the 2023 session, when the legislation unanimously passed the Senate Tax, Business and Transportation Committee, the 2024 bill has been updated to strengthen legal definitions, incorporate community feedback and reflect new insights as similar youth protections come into effect abroad. Specific provisions in the legislation would protect New Mexico kids online by requiring companies to conduct risk assessments evaluating whether design features could be addictive or harmful; ensuring all settings for children are set to high privacy by default; providing easily accessible reporting tools for privacy and behavior concerns; and prohibiting covered platforms from collecting and retaining any personal information from children that is not necessary for the service being provided.

Community voices calling for the 2024 New Mexico Kids Code:

Why we need action on Kids Code legislation: