Meta rolls out more parental controls for Instagram and virtual reality: NPR

A person walks past a sign with Meta’s logo at the company’s headquarters in Menlo Park in October 2021. The company is introducing new security measures for younger Instagram users after widespread criticism.

Noah Berger/AFP via Getty Images

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Noah Berger/AFP via Getty Images

A person walks past a sign with Meta’s logo at the company’s headquarters in Menlo Park in October 2021. The company is introducing new security measures for younger Instagram users after widespread criticism.

Noah Berger/AFP via Getty Images

Facebook parent company Meta is implementing additional parental controls for Instagram and its virtual reality headset, expanding a suite of tools released in the US in recent months.

The changes follow a year of intense public scrutiny for the company, with many criticizing child safety and Instagram’s adverse effects on younger users, particularly teenage girls.

Last fall, a Wall Street Journal investigation reported that the company’s investigations had repeatedly confirmed the harmful effects of the photo-sharing app teenage girls mental healtheven as Meta went ahead with a controversial plan to develop a version of the social media platform for children under 13. (That project has since been put on hold

The following months brought additional revelations from whistleblower Frances Haugena congress research on child safety and an investigation by several attorneys general of the states how Instagram recruits and influences children.

Company announced in December that it would release new safety tools aimed at teens and their parents, which they started rolling out in March

Instagram says users must be at least 13 years old to create an account — a rule that’s easy to get around because the app doesn’t have an age-verification process.

Antigone Davis, Meta’s chief of security, said: morning edition that the company is working on specific safeguards – such as developing artificial intelligence to better identify underage users – but it remains a challenge.

“There really is no panacea to solve that problem,” she said. “That’s a problem that the industry faces, and we’re trying to think of multiple ways to address that problem.”

In the meantime, Meta is taking steps to give parents and guardians more oversight of their kids’ activities in virtual reality and on Instagram — making some of the changes that had plagued it before. back in march

meta announced on Tuesday that it’s rolling out parental control tools to all of its Oculus Quest virtual reality headsets and expanding certain Instagram parental controls in the US before launching others in more than half a dozen countries.

With the new features, parents can approve or decline requests to purchase certain apps for the Quest, block apps that may be inappropriate for younger users, and view their child’s apps, headset screen time, and Oculus friends list. Parents can also prevent their teen from accessing content from their PC on their Quest headset by blocking Link and AirLink.

The teen must initiate the process, and both parties must agree that parents can link to their teens’ Quest account, Meta added.

On Instagram, parents and guardians can now invite their teens to initiate surveillance tools (a process that previously only worked the other way around), set limits on their teens’ Instagram use at certain times of the day or days of the week, and see information when their teen reports a message or account.

Instagram will also be launching new “nudges” for teen users in certain countries, encouraging them to switch topics if they repeatedly view the same type of content on their Explore page.

“We designed this new feature because research shows that nudges can be effective in helping people – especially teenagers – be more aware of how they are currently using social media,” explains Meta. The company cited internal research from a week-long trial that showed that one in five teens who saw the new nudges switched to another topic.

The company says it will soon be launching reminders for teens to enable its existing Take a break feature when they have scrolled through the reels for a specified amount of time.

As part of this new series of updates, Meta is also working to provide parents and guardians with more information and resources. It says it is adding new articles — including tips for talking to teens about various topics online — to its Family Center education center and launching a virtual reality parent education center.

“This is just a starting point, informed by careful collaboration with industry experts, and we will continue to expand and develop our parental control tools over time,” it adds.

The company’s announcement came after it was recently hit by eight lawsuits across the country, all of which accused it of purposely making Instagram and Facebook addictive to young people to boost Meta’s profits. as Bloomberg reported

A Meta spokesperson declined to comment to Bloomberg about the lawsuit, but pointed out the time limits and other parental controls it has developed for Instagram.

Editor’s Note: Meta pays NPR to license NPR content.

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