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

FTC Explores New Rules Surrounding Data Collection and AI

The Electronic Privacy Information Center is calling on the Federal Trade Commission to create rules that would protect the digital privacy of teens. Human Rights Watch is asking the FTC for safeguards to prevent education companies from selling minors’ personal information to data brokers and a ban on data-driven advertising targeting children. Both groups were represented at the FTC’s first public forum to explore adopting new rules around data collection and AI training on personal data. Practices the FTC is examining include the timeframe in which companies can retain consumer data and mandating audits of automated decision-making systems. Continue reading FTC Explores New Rules Surrounding Data Collection and AI

California’s Online Child Safety Bill Could Set New Standards

A first of its kind U.S. proposal to protecting children online cleared the California Legislature Tuesday and was sent to the desk of Governor Gavin Newsom. The California Age-Appropriate Design Code Act will require social media platforms to implement guardrails for users under 18. The new rules will curb risks — such as allowing strangers to message children — and require changes to recommendation algorithms and ad targeting where minors are concerned. The bill was drafted following Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen’s 2021 congressional testimony about the negative effects of social media on children’s mental health. Continue reading California’s Online Child Safety Bill Could Set New Standards

Pew: YouTube Most Popular with Teens, Followed by TikTok

YouTube is the most popular social media platform among teens, with 95 percent of 13- to 17-year-olds saying they use the service, according to the Pew Research study “Teens, Social Media and Technology 2022.” TikTok is currently ranked second, with a 67 percent teen buy-in, according to the study, followed by Instagram (62 percent) and Snapchat (59 percent). While neither YouTube nor TikTok were on the Pew ranking when the previous survey was released in 2015, Facebook fell precipitously — from first to fifth place — with 32 percent of teens onboard in 2022, versus 71 percent seven years ago. Continue reading Pew: YouTube Most Popular with Teens, Followed by TikTok

Gen Z Turning to TikTok and Instagram for Search and News

TikTok is at the center of yet another attention-grabbing trend: Gen Z has begun using it as a search engine, edging out Google. TikTok says a third of its billion or so global users are Gen Z, and these 10-to-25-year-olds are now using the short-form video platform for more than just entertainment and are increasingly turning to it as a source of information. Meta Platforms’ Instagram is also making a strong showing among information seekers in Gen Z — an important demographic among advertisers, as they are still forming brand loyalties and shopping habits. Continue reading Gen Z Turning to TikTok and Instagram for Search and News

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

State AGs Launch Investigation into Effects of TikTok on Kids

A group of state attorneys general has announced an investigation into TikTok and the potential harm it may cause younger users. The fact-finding is not unlike that launched by top state legal advisors last year into Meta Platforms. The bipartisan group is exploring whether TikTok is violating state consumer protection laws with engagement tactics that may cause minors to become “hooked” on the app. Kids in the age of social media “feel like they need to measure up to the filtered versions of reality that they see on their screens,” said California attorney general Rob Bonta. Continue reading State AGs Launch Investigation into Effects of TikTok on Kids

Kids Online Safety Act Advocates Holding Tech Accountable

A bipartisan bill to protect kids online was introduced Wednesday by Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut) and Marsha Blackburn (R-Tennessee). The Kids Online Safety Act (KOSA) would give parents more control over social media settings, add opt-out features and establish a “duty of care” that opens the door to liability and lawsuits. “Big Tech has brazenly failed children and betrayed its trust, putting profits above safety,” said Blumenthal. “This measure makes kids’ safety an Internet priority.” The bill follows a media blitz and months of Congressional hearings on the danger of social media to the mental and physical health of young users. Continue reading Kids Online Safety Act Advocates Holding Tech Accountable

TikTok Updates Safety for Minors, Expands Security Features

On the heels of its first Congressional hearing for product safety, TikTok has announced policy changes aimed at making the short-form video social platform safer and more secure, particularly for minors, LGBTQ and minority users. In October, TikTok vice president and head of public policy Michael Beckerman testified along with executives from Snapchat and YouTube, addressing questions from U.S. senators as to the social media site’s impact on teen eating disorders and fallout from dangerous hoaxes. The policy updates address those concerns and institute new cybersecurity measures intended to protect user data from unauthorized access. Continue reading TikTok Updates Safety for Minors, Expands Security Features

Wall Street Ponders Instagram as Meta Posts $10.2B VR Loss

As Facebook parent company Meta Platforms continues its planned evolution to the metaverse, observers have begun asking about Instagram. Acquired in 2012, the photo and video-sharing platform may be finding the accommodations that help it with advertisers hurt it with younger users gravitating to TikTok and Snapchat. While Meta doesn’t break out numbers for Instagram, the “family of apps” of which Instagram is a member generated $32.8 billion in Q4 revenue, all but $155 million of it from advertising, according to earnings released Wednesday. That’s an 18 percent improvement over Q4 2020. Continue reading Wall Street Ponders Instagram as Meta Posts $10.2B VR Loss

TikTok Adjusts Feed to Curb Repetition, Offers Users Control

TikTok is tweaking its For You feed so users won’t be recommended too much of the same content. The move follows a global spate of regulatory hearings that took social media companies to task for promoting content that intentionally polarizes adults and potentially harms children. In addition to “diversifying recommendations” in order to “interrupt repetitive patterns” around topics that may provide negative reinforcement, like “loneliness or weight loss,” the popular ByteDance platform said it is also introducing a new feature that will allow users to avoid specific topics or creators. Continue reading TikTok Adjusts Feed to Curb Repetition, Offers Users Control

Senate Tells Instagram CEO the ‘Time for Self-Policing is Over’

Instagram CEO Adam Mosseri spent more than two hours in the Senate hot seat last week, answering questions about the platform’s safety policies and impact on teens’ mental health. A bipartisan phalanx grilled the executive on topics ranging from algorithms to eating disorders. Mosseri, who was appearing in Congress for the first time, defended his social platform, a division of Meta Platforms, which also owns Facebook. He resisted pressure to throw in the towel on launching an Instagram for kids, telling lawmakers only that no child would have access to such a platform “without their explicit parental consent.” Continue reading Senate Tells Instagram CEO the ‘Time for Self-Policing is Over’

TikTok Debuts Safety Center Following Survey on Teen Users

TikTok has added a Safety Center to its platform, simultaneously releasing a 38-page summary of the months-long global research project on the impact its challenges and hoaxes have on adolescent users. The study — which queried more than 10,000 teens, their parents, and teachers across Asia, Europe and the Americas — was written by independent agency Praesidio Safeguarding. The move is a response to negative attention TikTok has received from media and lawmakers involving allegations of “blackout challenges” and slap-a-teacher dares. Critics are saying the social video platform’s new safety features do not go far enough. Continue reading TikTok Debuts Safety Center Following Survey on Teen Users

Facebook Is Criticized for Continuing to Collect Data of Teens

After Facebook promised in July that it would limit its algorithms that track online behavior of users under 18 as a step toward curtailing a method used by advertisers to target children and teenagers, the social giant is again being accused of collecting such data. Facebook was found harvesting data of young users through its ad delivery system, according to a report published by advocacy groups Fairplay, Global Action Plan and Reset Australia. The research suggests that Facebook is maintaining the ability to track younger users so that it can maximize engagement and increase advertising revenue. Continue reading Facebook Is Criticized for Continuing to Collect Data of Teens