After a heated Senate hearing about online safety for children, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle are speaking up in support of families who have lost children after exposure to harmful online material. Following the Judiciary Committee’s online safety hearing, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex released a statement in response on the website for their Archewell Foundation.
“We applaud the bravery and determination of the thousands of parents around the country whose advocacy resulted in this hearing,” it read. “Over the past few years, we have spent time with many of these families, listening to their heartache and their hopes for the urgent change that is needed in the online space.”
The committee invited the CEOs of five major tech companies, including Meta’s Mark Zuckerberg and Snap’s Evan Spiegel, to give testimony on how their platforms handle child safety, with attention on the Kids Online Safety Act, proposed legislation that would increase companies’ legal liability for a failure to “prevent and mitigate” harms to children. In the audience at the Capitol building were a handful of parents who lost their children to various harms encountered online, including one mother whose child died after accidentally procuring fentanyl through an app.
In October, Meghan and Harry hosted a World Mental Health Day panel where they addressed similar issues, and it included parents who turned to advocacy after their children suffered harm online. During the panel, Meghan said that meeting families who had lost a child motivated their work. “A year ago we met some of the families, and at the time, it was impossible not to be in tears hearing their stories because it’s just that devastating,” she said. “Social media isn’t going away and by design, there was an entry point that [it] was supposed to be positive and create community but something has devolved and there’s no way to hear that and not try to help these families have their stories be heard.”
In their Wednesday statement, the couple emphasized that the issue goes beyond partisan divides. “This is an issue that transcends division and party lines, as we saw today at the Senate hearing. The best parenting in the world cannot keep children safe from these platforms. As one of the fathers shared with us: ‘If love could have saved them, all of our children would still be here.’ it read. “This is not the time to pass the buck of responsibility. It’s the time to make necessary change at the source to keep our children safe.”
The couple’s charitable efforts have long been focused on improving the Internet, beginning with a 2020 lobbying effort called Color of Change that asked prominent advertisers to push for an end to online harassment. In 2023, they shifted their focus to supporting families and promoting teenagers who have done their own organizing for responsible technology.