Lawmakers to NIH: Is Tech Stressing Out Our Kids?


Legislators also push back on the White House eliminating its cyber adviser and reverse bans on Chinese phone maker ZTE.

A pair of lawmakers wants the National Institute of Health to weigh in on whether tech addiction is endangering children and teens.

Many tech companies, particularly those supported by ads, design their products to maximize screen time, but early studies show staring at a screen can lead to stress, depression and sleep deprivation, Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, ranking member of the Senate Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, Innovation, and the Internet, and Michael Bennet,  D-Colo., wrote in a letter to NIH Director Francis Collins.

A Common Sense Media study found nearly all homes with kids under 8 have mobile devices and kids spend about 48 minutes on smartphones a day—a jump from only 15 minutes in 2013. 

They asked NIH to explain whether the scientific community has a consensus opinion on tech addiction, the potential health effects of social networking, how technology affects children’s development, and to identify gaps in research.

Bring Back the Cyber Czar

Cyber-savvy lawmakers reacted with outrage last week to National Security Adviser John Bolton’s decision to eliminate the White House Cyber Coordinator role.

Within hours of the shift becoming official, Reps. Jim Langevin, D-R.I., and Ted Lieu, D-Calif., introduced a bill that would reinstate and elevate the position. Rep. Seth Moulton, D-Mass, introduced an amendment barring the president from eliminating the position to the National Defense Authorization Act.

Separately, an octet of House Democrats led by Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Mich., sent a letter to Trump urging him to reconsider the plan.

Lawmakers Defy Trump on ZTE

The Senate appropriations committee unanimously passed an amendment from Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger, D-Md., on Thursday, that would block President Donald Trump from reversing a Commerce Department action banning the Chinese phone maker ZTE from relying on U.S. supply chains.

Trump has said he’s trying to reverse the ban amid trade negotiations with China, but critics say ZTE could be leveraged by Chinese hackers and poses too great a national security threat.

Wyden Still Pushing on Location Data

Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., praised the Federal Communications Commission, Friday, for agreeing to investigate a flaw in the cell phone location data aggregator LocationSmart that, allegedly, allowed researchers to pinpoint the location of nearly any cell phone carrier.

The FCC’s move follows a report from Wyden that another location data aggregator, Secarus Technologies, was sharing citizens’ cell phone locations with law enforcement without requiring the necessary legal processes.

There’s Always Room for Google

Sens. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., and Edward Markey, D-Mass., meanwhile are urging the Federal Trade Commission to investigate deceptive practices in Google’s location tracking features.

Yep, Putin Favored Trump

The Senate Intelligence Committee closed its more-than-yearlong investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election, Wednesday, by affirming the intelligence community’s conclusion that Russian leaders wanted to help President Trump win the election over his rival Democrat Hillary Clinton.

Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee suggested the operation was far less partisan in their final report last month, which was disputed by committee Democrats.

“The Russian effort was extensive, sophisticated, and ordered by President Putin himself for the purpose of helping Donald Trump and hurting Hillary Clinton,” the committee’s ranking member Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., said in a joint statement with Chairman Richard Burr, R-N.C.

Coming Up

Cyber and tech’s not taking a break on the hill this week. Here’s a rundown.

At 10:15 a.m. Tuesday, the House Energy and Commerce Committee will convene a hearing about the Internet of Things.

At 3 p.m. Tuesday, the House Rules Committee will consider amendments to the National Defense Authorization Act.

At 3:30 p.m. that day, the Congressional Internet Caucus will host an event on the 20th anniversary of Congress’s first cybersecurity hearing.

At 10 a.m. Wednesday, the House Oversight Committee will look into the sixth generation of IT scorecards required under the Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act.

At 10:30 a.m., the Senate Budget Committee will examine a Government Accountability Office report on efforts to reduce overlap and duplication in the federal government.  

At 10 a.m. Thursday, the Senate Banking Committee will hold a hearing about cybersecurity risks to the financial sector.

Editor's Note: This article was updated to correct the day of the House Oversight hearing.