In this day and age, kids and teenagers often grow up with full access to the internet. This includes starting their first social media profiles very early. With that in mind, it’s important to warn teenagers about the dangers of the internet, but not everything can always be controlled. To keep teens safer on social media, Meta is introducing changes to the profile privacy for that age group on Facebook and Instagram.
Facebook may no longer be the go-to for teens — according to Pew Research, teens’ usage of the platform dropped from 71% to 32% between 2014 and 2022. That’s one of the reasons why Meta is in serious trouble. However, Instagram is still popular, with an estimated 62% of polled teenagers claiming they use the app. Teenagers gravitate toward visual-centric platforms these days, with TikTok, Snapchat, and Instagram claiming the top 3 spots in the poll when it comes to pure social media platforms, although YouTube seems to be the most popular app overall, with a score of 95%. Be that as it may, lots of kids still join Facebook; some of them get their profiles very early on. Unfortunately, doing so can often put them at risk.
Meta has already introduced much-needed parental controls to protect teenagers on Instagram in 2021. This included restricting the visibility of profiles of everyone aged under 16 (or even under 18 in some regions). Adults are unable to message teens they are not connected to, and teenagers’ profiles do not pop up in the People You May Know section on Facebook. The company also added new ways to report suspicious adults on both apps and saw a great increase in reports sent by minors as a result. Now, it will be adding even further means of protecting children.
Teenagers’ profiles will be private by default
Meta plans to limit unwanted interactions for teens, letting them stay in their own age bubbles if they choose to do so, and giving them new ways to report inappropriate and uncomfortable behaviors from other users. The company announced that it’s testing ways to make sure that teens don’t engage in conversation with “suspicious adults they aren’t connected to.” The term “suspicious” is being used throughout the announcement, and Meta defines it as such: “A ‘suspicious’ account is one that belongs to an adult that may have recently been blocked or reported by a young person.” In the cases where those accounts are involved, it seems that Meta will either block or discourage teens from starting conversations with such adults.
New privacy settings are also being introduced on Facebook. Every user under 16 (or 18 in some countries, as mentioned above) will now have tightened privacy settings from the moment they sign up for Facebook. Those who already have a profile will be encouraged to improve their privacy settings. Similar privacy defaults are already in place on Instagram. Meta is also encouraging teenagers to take advantage of its enhanced safety and reporting tools — if anyone makes such young users uncomfortable, Meta wants to make it easier for kids to report and block the culprits.
Lastly, Meta is working with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) in order to limit the spreading of teens’ intimate images. Recognizing the trauma associated with having such pictures non-consensually shared, Meta says that the new platform, still a work in progress, will “allow [Meta] to help prevent a teen’s intimate images from being posted online and can be used by other companies across the tech industry.” Meta says it will be able to share more about this project in the next few weeks.