In what might be construed as a passing of the buck, Meta Platforms Inc. today said the U.S. needs new legislation that will require app stores to receive parental approval before their kids can download an app.
It seems it’s only a matter of time now until there are profound changes in how young people use social media due to an almost constant flow of negative news relating to social media and the mental health of the young. If one company has been under the gun more than any company, it’s Meta, owner of Facebook and Instagram.
The social media giant is currently dusting itself off after a whistleblower told a Senate Judiciary subcommittee that its standards of protecting the young are somewhat lax. Just yesterday, a federal judge ruled that Meta and other social media companies need to be accountable for the alleged harms their products perpetrate on young minds, while Meta alone is dealing with lawsuits from attorneys general all over the U.S.
Meta’s proposal today, then, is to create new laws that will put the onus on parents, as well as on the app store giants Apple Inc. and Google LLC. “As an industry, we should come together with lawmakers to create simple, efficient ways for parents to oversee their teens’ online experiences,” Meta’s Global Head of Safety, Antigone Davis, wrote in a blog post.
The plan is simple enough. Just as parents can see when their kids – children under 16 – make an in-app purchase and either approve or disapprove, they should go through the same routine whenever the said child wants to download any app.
Davis called this a “simple, industry-wide solution,” although ultimately, it doesn’t address the inherent harms social media might be doing to young folks. Still, as Davis says, if this is used in conjunction with social media companies creating “age-appropriate features and settings,” it may help a bit. That might depend on how savvy the average parent is to the possible negative effects of social on their child.
“This solution also helps to preserve privacy,” Davis added. “By verifying a teen’s age on the app store, individual apps would not be required to collect potentially sensitive identifying information. Apps would only need the age from the app store to ensure teens are placed in the right experiences for their age group.”
Right now, Meta and other tech behemoths are struggling to contend with new legislation in Europe, a struggle that has seen Meta have to offer an ad-free, subscription-based model for its platforms. In the U.S., senators have been trying to push through the bipartisan “Protecting Kids on Social Media Act,” which, if passed, will certainly put a dent in social media companies’ bottom lines.
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