In a recent blog post, Meta’s Global Head of Safety, Antigone Davis, emphasized the need for parents to approve their teens’ app downloads. Meta has taken a clear stance in supporting potential federal legislation that would mandate parental approval for app downloads for users under 16 years old.
“With this solution, when a teen wants to download an app, app stores would be required to notify their parents, much like when parents are notified if their teen attempts to make a purchase. Parents can decide if they want to approve the download. They can also verify the age of their teen when setting up their phone, negating the need for everyone to verify their age multiple times across multiple apps,” said Davis.
Meta’s position is grounded in recent Pew research, revealing that 81% of U.S. adults favor requiring parental consent for teens to create social media accounts. Despite this public sentiment, the blog post highlights the need for a more thoughtful consideration of who should bear responsibility for regulating teens’ access to social media and defining the operational parameters of these apps to protect teens.
Meta faces legal challenges from a coalition of 42 states and D.C. over alleged harms to teens and young users, citing concerns raised by whistleblower Frances Haugen. Haugen’s disclosures suggested that Meta was aware of the negative impact its platforms had on users, particularly issues like body image problems among teens, without taking adequate action. Despite hearings involving Instagram head Adam Mosseri defending the app’s safety record, no concrete decisions on regulating teen platform usage have been reached.
In response to these challenges, Meta has implemented self-regulation measures, introducing defaults and features to restrict teens’ access to content such as Take a Break, enhance privacy protection, and limit ad targeting for teens. Parental controls have also been introduced.
However, a second whistleblower, Arturo Bejar, has recently expressed concerns that Instagram’s safety measures were insufficient in protecting teens from sexual predators and unwanted advances. Bejar, hired as a consultant on the matter, brought attention to unresolved issues after years of efforts.
Reuters reported yesterday that a bipartisan coalition of U.S. Senators has sent a letter to Mark Zuckerberg, requesting documentation regarding the research conducted on the adverse effects of its social media platforms on children.
“Members of Congress have repeatedly asked Meta for information on its awareness of threats to young people on its platforms and the measures that it has taken, only to be stonewalled and provided non-responsive or misleading information,” the senators wrote in a letter.
Meta’s advocacy for parental approval legislation, as revealed in the recent blog post, is not a rushed response to Bejar’s claims but indicates a long-standing consideration within the company. It aligns with Meta’s belief that app stores, which already have age guidelines, should enforce them as part of a broader effort to regulate app downloads for teens.
The announcement also reflects Meta’s response to the absence of congressional action on online child safety regulations, such as the Kids Online Safety Act (KOSA). With states individually creating laws due to a lack of federal guidelines, Meta urges the involvement of app stores in shaping the regulatory landscape.