U.S. lawmakers look for ways to protect kids on social media

amplifier: Something (usually a device) that boosts the power of a signal. For example, amplifiers are often attached to electric guitars to make them louder.

anxiety: A nervous reaction to events causing excessive uneasiness and apprehension. People with anxiety may even develop panic attacks.

bullying: (v. to bully) A group of repeated behaviors that are mean-spirited. They can include teasing, spreading rumors about someone, saying hurtful things to someone and intentionally leaving someone out of groups or activities. Sometimes bullying can include attacks using violence (such as hitting), threats of violence, yelling at someone or abusing someone with violent language. Much bullying takes place in person. But it also may occur online, through emails or via text messages. Newer examples including making fake profiles of people on websites or posting embarrassing photos or videos on social media.

critical thinking: Sometimes described as a scientific attitude of mind, it is the careful and probing consideration of any belief, purported fact, idea or values, based upon the data or experiences available — and then using that assessment to make some conclusion.

depression: (in medicine) A mental illness characterized by persistent sadness and apathy. Although these feelings can be triggered by events, such as the death of a loved one or the move to a new city, that isn’t typically considered an “illness” — unless the symptoms are prolonged and harm an individual’s ability to perform normal daily tasks (such as working, sleeping or interacting with others). People suffering from depression often feel they lack the energy needed to get anything done. They may have difficulty concentrating on things or showing an interest in normal events. Many times, these feelings seem to be triggered by nothing; they can appear out of nowhere.

develop: To emerge or to make come into being, either naturally or through human intervention, such as by manufacturing. (in biology) To grow as an organism from conception through adulthood, often undergoing changes in chemistry, size, mental maturity or sometimes even shape.

digital: (in computer science and engineering)  An adjective indicating that something has been developed numerically on a computer or on some other electronic device, based on a binary system (where all numbers are displayed using a series of only zeros and ones).

disorder: (in medicine) A condition where the body does not work appropriately, leading to what might be viewed as an illness. This term can sometimes be used interchangeably with disease.

eating disorder: An illness of the mind involving dangerously unhealthy patterns of eating and weight loss or gain.

exploitation: (verb: to exploit) Taking advantage of one or more people for personal gain. Examples can include making people work for little or no pay, making people do things under threat of harm, or tricking people into giving up something of value.

implicit: An adjective for something that is suggested but has not been stated directly. In some cases, it may be used to convey the idea that some idea is so obvious that it doesn’t have to be stated directly.

link: A connection between two people or things.

media literacy: The ability to analyze and think critically about news, information and other messages from a variety of communication platforms.

mental health: A term for someone’s emotional, psychological and social well-being. It refers to how people behave on their own and how they interact with others. It includes how people make choices, handle stress and manage fear or anxiety. Poor mental health can be triggered by disease or might reflect a short-term response to life’s challenges. It can occur in people of any age, from babies to the elderly.

monitor: To test, sample or watch something, especially on a regular or ongoing basis.

online: (n.) On the internet. (adj.) A term for what can be found or accessed on the internet.

predator: (adjective: predatory) A creature that preys on other animals for most or all of its food.

psychologist: A scientist or mental-health professional who studies the mind, especially in relation to actions and behaviors. Some work with people. Others may conduct experiments with animals (usually rodents) to test how their minds respond to different stimuli and conditions.

risk: The chance or mathematical likelihood that some bad thing might happen. For instance, exposure to radiation poses a risk of cancer. Or the hazard — or peril — itself. (For instance: Among cancer risks that the people faced were radiation and drinking water tainted with arsenic.)

self-harm: Intentionally injuring one’s body. Examples may include cutting, scratching or burning oneself. This unhealthy behavior is typically a way this individual attempts to cope with emotional pain. It’s usually not intended as a suicide attempt. Also known as self-injury.

social media: Digital media that allow people to connect with each other (often anonymously) and to share information. Examples include Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and WhatsApp.

survey: To view, examine, measure or evaluate something, often land or broad aspects of a landscape. (with people) To ask questions that glean data on the opinions, practices (such as dining or sleeping habits), knowledge or skills of a broad range of people. Researchers select the number and types of people questioned in hopes that the answers these individuals give will be representative of others who are their age, belong to the same ethnic group or live in the same region. (n.) The list of questions that will be offered to glean those data.

technology: The application of scientific knowledge for practical purposes, especially in industry — or the devices, processes and systems that result from those efforts.

Twitter: The old name for an online social network that allows users to post messages containing no more than 280 characters. (Until November 2017, the limit had been just 140 characters.) Elon Musk, who bought the site in 2022, changed its name to X in mid-2023.

Web: (in computing) An abbreviation of World Wide Web, it is a slang term for the internet.

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