Meta, the tech giant behind social media platforms Instagram and Facebook, has made a call for legislative change.
The company proposes that app stores, like those operated by Apple and Google, should be legally obliged to get parental approval before allowing children to download apps. This aims to shift the burden of implementing parental controls from social media companies to app stores, changing how easy it is for young users to access apps.
Responding to Criticism
Meta’s initiative comes after scrutiny over its handling of teen users on its platforms.
The company’s global head of safety, Antigone Davis, emphasised the need for an “industry-wide solution” in a recent blog post. Davis advocates for a system where parents would be notified and required to approve any app downloads by their teens under the age of 16. This system would also streamline the process of age verification, reducing the need for repeated checks across various apps.
Meta’s Challenges and Legal Battles
The call for new legislation follows a period of intense criticism and legal challenges faced by Meta.
The company has been accused of not doing enough to protect children and teens from online harms, including exposure to inappropriate content and interactions on platforms like Instagram.
The issue was further highlighted when a whistleblower spoke to the US Congress about the risks faced by teens on these platforms, including incidents of sexual advances on minors.
The Need for a National Law
In the United States, the response to these concerns has started to take shape at the state level. Notably, Utah has become the first state to require social media companies to obtain parental consent for minors using their apps.
This move indicates a trend towards more locally enforced regulation. However, Meta is advocating for a national law to avoid a fragmented legal landscape and ensure a consistent approach to child safety across all states.
Internationally, the regulatory environment is becoming increasingly complicated for social media companies. In the European Union, strict data privacy regulations have forced Meta to adjust its operations, including introducing subscription fees.
The Proposed Legislation
A key aspect of Meta’s proposal is the emphasis on privacy. By moving the responsibility for parental controls to app stores, the amount of sensitive information collected by individual apps would be reduced. This approach not only addresses child safety concerns but also aligns with wider privacy management, making it a potentially attractive proposition for lawmakers and the tech industry alike.
A Call for Industry Collaboration
Meta’s call for legislative change reflects the complex challenges associated with managing child and teen safety online.
The proposal for app store-based parental approval laws highlights the need for collaborative efforts between tech companies, lawmakers, and parents to create a safer online environment for minors. As the debate continues, the tech industry and regulatory bodies will need to balance the demands of safety, privacy, and innovation in shaping the future of digital experiences for younger people.