Facebook and Instagram Roll Out New Safety Tools for Teens

Meta Platforms is introducing updates to further protect teens on Facebook and Instagram. Starting this week, those under the age of 16 (or under 18 in certain countries) will be defaulted into more stringent private settings when they join Facebook. A similar default was put into effect on Instagram last year. Meta is also restricting “potentially suspicious adults.” For example, adults will be restricted from messaging teens they aren’t connected to and from seeing teens in their People You May Know recommendations. A “suspicious adult” is one that has recently been blocked or reported by a young person. Continue reading Facebook and Instagram Roll Out New Safety Tools for Teens

Advocacy Groups Seek to Enact Online Rules to Protect Kids

A coalition of more than 20 advocacy groups with an interest in child safety is petitioning the Federal Trade Commission to prohibit social media platforms including TikTok as well as online games and other services from bombarding kids with ads and using other tactics that may hook children online. Regulators are being lobbied to prevent online services from offering minors “low-friction rewards” — unpredictably granting positive reinforcement for scrolling, tapping or logging on to prolonged use. The groups say the technique is the same used by slot machine makers to keep gamblers engaged. Continue reading Advocacy Groups Seek to Enact Online Rules to Protect Kids

Google Makes Family Link and Google TV More Child-Friendly

Google has redesigned its Family Link experience, launched five years ago to help keep children safe online. The most popular tools — screen time limits, blocking apps and content filters — are now easier to find, and there is a central place for viewing requests and notifications. A Controls tab has been added, enabling parents to set screen time limits for individual devices or specific apps, dial-in content restrictions and manage data permissions. With families in mind, Google is also adding new AI-powered features to Google TV, such as parent-controlled watchlists. Continue reading Google Makes Family Link and Google TV More Child-Friendly

California Governor Signs Online Child Protection Bill into Law

Governor Gavin Newsom signed the California Age-Appropriate Design Code Act into law last week, making his state the first in the nation to adopt online child safety measures. The bipartisan legislation requires online platforms to default to privacy and safety settings that protect children’s mental and physical health. The new law, cosponsored by Assemblymembers Buffy Wicks (D-15th District) and Jordan Cunningham (R-35th District), prohibits companies that provide online services and products in California from using a child’s personal information and forbids collecting, selling, or retaining a child’s geolocation, among other things. Continue reading California Governor Signs Online Child Protection Bill into Law

Google Updates Play Store Policies to Protect Android Users

Google has updated its developer Play Store policies with an aim toward tamping down intrusive ads and other unpleasant consumer experiences, such as VPN abuse and brand impersonation on Android. Full-screen interstitial ads of all formats (video, GIF, static, etc.) that display unexpectedly — that often lead to users engaging with something else — are forbidden effective September 22. Likewise, apps that allow ads at the beginning of a game level or during the beginning of a game content segment are on the robust list of infractions the Play Store will no longer tolerate. Continue reading Google Updates Play Store Policies to Protect Android Users

Online Child Safety Gains Steam at State and Federal Levels

Online privacy protections for consumers are in focus on Capitol Hill, with the Kids Online Safety Act (KOSA) getting particular attention. A coalition of more than 100 organizations, including Fairplay and the American Psychological Association are calling on senators to advance KOSA this month. Co-sponsored by senators Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut) and Marsha Blackburn (R-Tennessee), the legislation would require social media platforms to conduct annual audits to identify risks to minors as well as more concrete steps like opting out of algorithmic recommendations and disabling “addictive” features.  Continue reading Online Child Safety Gains Steam at State and Federal Levels

Amazon Kids+ Skips Ads for First Free Mobile Game Releases

Amazon Kids+ is debuting its first free original mobile games. Ad-free mobile games based on the Amazon Original children shows “Super Spy Ryan” and “Do, Re & Mi” are now available for any smartphone user, even those who don’t subscribe to Amazon Kids+. The company says it “wanted do something special for kids and parents who use smartphones.” The games are the result of a two-year development effort by “the Amazon Kids+ mobile games team,” according to Amazon Kids+ global head of content Natasha Lipovac. Amazon has been very active in the children’s arena. Continue reading Amazon Kids+ Skips Ads for First Free Mobile Game Releases

Amazon Glow on a Mission to Help Families Stay Connected

Following last year’s “invitation only” rollout, Amazon has released the Glow projector for kids in the U.S. The touch-sensitive 19-inch Glow image can be used for gameplay, arts, storytime and more. It also has an 8-inch LCD screen for video calls, making it a way “for little ones to enjoy hands-on activities while adults simultaneously — and remotely — join in the fun” using a free app for smartphones and tablets. The $300 price includes a 1-year Amazon Kids+ subscription featuring thousands of books, games and the ability to chat with popular Disney characters. Continue reading Amazon Glow on a Mission to Help Families Stay Connected

Meta Adding Parent Controls for Instagram and Virtual Reality

Meta Platforms is beginning to implement parental controls on Instagram and Quest. Last week, Instagram added a Family Center that will eventually expand to allow parents and guardians to “help teens manage experiences across Meta technologies from one central place.” Meta says parental controls will be added to Quest VR in May, and hinted others, like Facebook, are queued-up to join. The Family Center will allow parents to monitor how much time their teens spend on Instagram, setting limits if they choose. Additionally, accounts teens follow and accounts following them will be trackable. Continue reading Meta Adding Parent Controls for Instagram and Virtual Reality

YouTube Kids Finds Right Formula to Improve Video Content

Children’s programming has always been some of the most popular content on YouTube, generating billions of views since the platform launched in 2005. But the accompanying advertising and algorithm-driven recommendations proved problematic, sometimes serving material that parents deemed inappropriate. YouTube has taken various steps to address this, becoming in 2015 the first social platform to launch a children’s version of its main product. It later opted to have humans, not algorithms, make the content recommendations for kids, a costly trade-off that seems to have produced positive results. Continue reading YouTube Kids Finds Right Formula to Improve Video Content

Big Tech Faces Global Pressure to Step Up Child Protections

UK-style child protections are coming to the U.S. if a pair of California state lawmakers have anything to say about it. Assembly members Jordan Cunningham, a Republican, and Buffy Wicks, a Democrat, last week proposed the California Age-Appropriate Design Code Act, a bill modeled after what is popularly known in the UK as the Children’s Code, and more formally tagged the Age Appropriate Design Code. If enacted, websites and social platforms would have to limit the collection of children’s data in California, enact safeguards protecting minors from other users, minimize addictive features and simplify privacy settings. Continue reading Big Tech Faces Global Pressure to Step Up Child Protections

HTC Adds Vive Guardian to Protect Kids in Volatile Metaverse

Taiwanese electronics company HTC has introduced a new Vive Guardian feature for its popular VR headset, the HTC Vive. The safeguard is designed to limit access to apps while children are cavorting in the metaverse, and experts say it’s a much needed step in an environment that thus far lacks kid profiles and parental safety settings. HTC, Meta Platforms and others suggest VR be used only by those over the age of 13, but at this point, it’s only a recommendation, and calls are already amplifying to put child safety measures in place. Continue reading HTC Adds Vive Guardian to Protect Kids in Volatile Metaverse

Amazon Glow Gives Kids Connectivity for Activities & Games

This holiday season, families may be basking in the warmth of the new Amazon Glow, which debuted in limited release September 28. The crackling 14-inch vertical tower is a combination tablet, camera and projector and features an 8-inch LCD HD touchscreen and can project up to 19.2-inches. While the $250 introductory price tag may be considered steep for a device aimed at toddlers (it is marketed for ages 3 and up), the Amazon Glow lets kids play remotely with family and friends, and can anyone really put a price to quality time across the miles?  Continue reading Amazon Glow Gives Kids Connectivity for Activities & Games

Facebook Vies with Whistleblower to Spin Latest News Cycle

Facebook vice president of global affairs Nick Clegg in a round of Sunday morning news appearances advocated his company’s position in the midst of senatorial attack, discussing new safety tools and emphasizing the company’s repeated requests for congressional guidelines. Means to deflect users from harmful content, curb political content and put programming power in the hands of parents were among the new measures by which to impede vulnerabilities. Instagram in particular will invite adult supervision over accounts belonging to minors. Clegg stressed Instagram Kids for 13-and-under as part of the solution. Continue reading Facebook Vies with Whistleblower to Spin Latest News Cycle

FTC Is Considering the Need for Stricter Online Privacy Rules

The Federal Trade Commission is looking into establishing stronger online privacy protections that would hold businesses such as Facebook, Google and Twitter more responsible for how they handle consumer data. The early discussions, under the leadership of new chair and vocal Big Tech critic Lina Khan, are addressing the possibility of introducing FTC regulation due to what is perceived as gridlock in Congress in creating a federal law. Privacy and civil rights groups have advocated for a single federal law — similar to Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) — rather than state laws (or no regulation at all). Continue reading FTC Is Considering the Need for Stricter Online Privacy Rules