Meta has added new parental supervision tools to Facebook and Instagram as the company faces continued scrutiny over how social media platforms affect the health and safety of children.
Through Facebook's Messenger, parents will gain more insight on their children's messaging habits, but they won't be able to read their messages. Parents can view how much time their teen spends on Messenger, their teen's contact list, and if their teen reports anyone.
Parents will also be able to see their child's messaging settings, such as if only friends can message them (or if it's set to a broader scope), and will get notified of any changes made to the settings. They can see the same information about who can view their teen's stories, and will learn if these settings change.
The catch, however, is that the child must opt in to the parental supervision feature in order for guardians to access these tools.
"Today's updates were designed to help teens feel in control of their online experiences and help parents feel equipped to support their teens," Meta said in a statement.
Meta is working on a similar initiative for Instagram.
Meta already shows safety notices when adults who have demonstrated potentially suspicious behavior message teens on Instagram. It also restricts people over the age of 19 from sending private Instagram messages to teens who don't follow them.
To up these efforts, the social media giant says it's testing additional features.
An invitation will be sent asking permission for a person to message a teen who doesn't follow them. Only one invite can be sent at a time, and more can't be sent unless the teen grants permission to connect.
The invitations will be sent via text message, so the person requesting the invite can't send any photos, videos, voice messages or make calls until the teen accepts the invitation to chat. This will prevent teens from receiving any unwanted messages or types of media from people they don't follow, says Meta.
If a teen chooses to block someone, a new message will appear encouraging them to add a parent to supervise their account as an added layer of support.
"Through this notice, we’re meeting teens at specific moments to remind them how they can benefit from parental guidance when it comes to navigating their online interactions," Meta said.
Meta will also send nudges for teens on social media to take a break. Once they've been on for 20 minutes, they'll be prompted to take time away from the app and can set a daily time limit.
While the new features give parents more insight into their kids' social media usage, there's much to be addressed. Meta has been under fire for its negative effects on kids' health, from viral challenges causing death in some cases to algorithms targeting eating disorder content to young teen users.
U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy has been speaking out against the negative mental health impacts social media has on the youth, and is even in favor of a social media warning label — much like on a pack of cigarettes — that will warn teen users of the impact of such platforms. That label however will require some sort of congressional authority.
"What we found were two critical things. One is that there is not enough evidence to reassure us that social media use is in fact sufficiently safe for kids," Murthy told Scripps News earlier this month. "The second thing that we found is that there's growing evidence that social media use is associated with harms for some of our kids."
Parents can access Messenger supervision tools and resources through the Meta Family Center.
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