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Meta rolls out new parental tools, privacy features

Instagram and Facebook have added new features to enable better parental supervision and check the time spent on social media

Meta has rolled out features to enhance parental supervision for Facebook and Instagram. (Reuters)
Meta has rolled out features to enhance parental supervision for Facebook and Instagram. (Reuters)

Instagram and Facebook's parent company Meta is introducing new features to improve parental supervision after facing criticism about the effect of excessive social media usage on teenagers' mental health.

The new tools will enable parents to see how their teens uses social media and keep tabs on the amount of time they spend on messaging. However, parents won't be able to read the messages, according to a Meta blog post.

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New features for Facebook supervision: Parents will be able to see how much time their teenagers spend on social media, have access to their contact list, and be notified if their teen reports someone on the Messenger app. They will also have access to settings related to who can message their teen and see if these settings are changed.

They will also see who can message their teen (only their friends, friends of friends, or no one) and get to know if their teen changes this setting. Parents can also keep an eye on who can see their teen’s Messenger stories, according to the post. 

Moreover, from 27 June, Meta will encourage children to take a break from Facebook, similar to how it does on Instagram. After using it constantly for 20 minutes, teenagers will get a notice to take time away from the app. Meta is also working on a new nudge for Instagram that will suggest teenagers close the app if they are scrolling Reels at night.

Instagram tools: Currently, Instagram restricts people over the age of 19 years from sending private messages to teenagers who don't follow them. Now, before messaging someone who doesn't follow them, people have to send an invite to connect. Furthermore, message request invites are limited to text only until the invite to chat is accepted. Parents also get notified if their teenagers have blocked someone, according to the Meta post. 

Parents will also be able to see how many friends their child has in common with accounts the teenager follows or is followed by. If a follower is someone none of their friends follows, it could raise a red flag as the teen might not know the person in real life.

Supervision is optional: According to Instagram, supervision is optional, and both the parent and the teen have to agree to participate, and it can be removed at any time by either person. If a teen opts in for supervision, parents will be able set time limits, see whom their kid follows or is followed by, and allows them to track how much time they spend on Instagram.

By making the supervision optional, Meta said it is trying to "balance teen safety and autonomy" as well as initiate conversations between parents and their children, according to a report in the Associated Press.

Jim Steyer, CEO and founder of Common Sense Media, called the new updates a "smoke screen." Steyer told AP: “None of these new features address the negative impact their business model is having on the well-being of kids, including their mental health. We need national privacy laws to protect kids.”

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