Meta is offering new privacy protections for kids, but only if they opt in

Meta, the parent company of Instagram and Facebook, is introducing new parental supervision tools to add security and privacy features for minors, as the US general surgeon said social media poses a profound risk to teenagers’ mental health just one month ago.

However, teenage users must opt into the new features before the new protections can take effect, making it unlikely that they will be widely adopted, similar to Meta’s previous parental supervision updates.

They won’t be able to read private messages. Parents will be able to monitor their child who follows. If a minor opts in, they are given the ability to track how much time their child spends on the platform by setting usage limits and using the new features.

In order to keep an eye on their kids, parents will be provided with a range of comparable voluntary monitoring resources that will be launched in March 2022, as a component of the updated tools offered by the Meta Family Center.

The update also introduced new rules on how users can receive private DMs from accounts they don’t follow, limiting requests to text messages only as the invitation recipient can’t send videos or photos until they accept.

The spokesperson for Meta declined to provide numbers in an email to Quartz, stating that it had been a year and a half since the tools were first introduced and many teenage users had opted into supervision.

A bipartisan group of senators has recently attempted to push through legislation that would ban the popular social media app TikTok, which is used by more than 150 million Americans. In recent months, companies like Google and Meta, along with other Big Tech companies, have not only felt pressure from the Surgeon General’s report.

While legislation to propose wide-ranging restrictions on the use of social media by teenagers has stalled across the country, several state legislatures have passed similar bans on video-sharing platforms on social media.

Frances Haugen, a former employee of Meta, leaked internal documents proving that Meta was aware its products were contributing to the mental health crisis among teenagers. She cautioned against overreacting to the issue, but emphasized the importance of banning these products.

During a conversation with Quartz, Haugen expressed concern about the increasing number of individuals making decisions based on emotions. Haugen’s worry stems from the potential harm caused to children, which has reached a critical point and makes them extremely anxious.

Haugen proposed a compromise between Meta’s tepid approach and complete prohibitions by recommending a middle ground in Europe legislation that discourages unhealthy behavior among teenage users by addressing slow loading times and implementing reforms to enhance the safety of social media use.

Statistics on Teenage Social Media Usage

95%: Percentage of American adolescents who indicate utilizing a social networking site.

3.5 hours: The average duration American adolescents devote to social networking sites daily.

64%: Percentage of teenagers who indicate being exposed to hate-driven material on the internet.

2/3: Proportion of American teenagers who utilize TikTok, positioning it as the second most favored social networking platform among youth, following YouTube.

16%: Proportion of teenagers who claim to utilize TikTok “nearly incessantly.”

95%: The percentage of teenagers in America, aged 13-17, who state that they have continuous availability to a smartphone.

One-third: The fraction of teenage girls who experienced a heightened negative perception of their physical appearance after using Instagram, according to confidential papers disclosed at Meta.

72%: Proportion of adolescents who report experiencing cyberbullying.

Editorial note (6/28 11:25am): The article has been enhanced with an extra aspect of Meta’s latest privacy safeguards.