May 25, 2022

The letter, signed by Attorney General 44, says TikTok and Snapchat need more parental controls.

Yesterday, the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG) sent a number of complaints to two social apps that are widely used by teenagers.

The Attorney General mentioned a number of problems with social media applications that, more broadly, could negatively impact the physical, emotional and mental well-being of children and adolescents. They also noted that material depicting abusive sexual relationships can seriously damage a child’s perceptions of a healthy relationship that promotes domestic violence and human trafficking. The letter highlights that TikTok and Snapchat are not working effectively with third-party parental control apps to help parents control and restrict what their children can do on their platforms.

The NAAG cited a study by one such app, Bark, which analyzed 3.4 billion messages across 30 apps in 2021 and found that 74.6% of teens were involved in self-harm/suicide situations, 90.73% were involved in online nudity or used to encounter sexual content and 93.31% engage in conversations about drugs or alcohol.

Parental control apps can alert parents or schools to posts and messages on your platform that could be potentially harmful and dangerous. The apps can also alert parents if their child shows a desire to harm themselves or commit suicide,” the letter says.

Snapchat already has some in-app parental controls like TikTok, but this group of Attorneys General wants the platform to be more compatible with third-party parental control apps, whether or not they’ve approved a particular product. He suggested that apps with parental controls could access social networking app features, such as private messaging, that are not controlled by built-in parental controls. In addition, third-party apps can better filter user-generated content that appears in the main app feeds.

However, third-party monitoring apps present their own set of challenges with the tactics used to monitor children.

While TikTok and Snapchat already had parental controls, rival Instagram didn’t. Following a series of Senate hearings on the impact of social media on teen mental health, Meta recently began implementing parental controls on Instagram, a welcome safety measure.

But the safety of teens on these platforms remains a concern for the US government, whether parental controls are in place or not. President Biden also referred to the dangers of social media for the mental health of teens in his State of the Union address, which included former Facebook employee and whistleblower Frances Haugen as guest of honor.

TikTok is more popular among teenagers than Instagram, which has invested money in maintaining TikTok clone roles. But since TikTok is considered the fastest growing social app, Meta has gone one step further to maintain its glory. The Washington Post reported today that Meta has hired Targeted Victory, a Republican consulting firm, to turn the public against TikTok. In some cases, Targeted Victory tried to sway public opinion by claiming that some dangerous viral trends originated on TikTok, when in fact they originated on Facebook. In 2018, gaming-updates also reported that Facebook had partnered with Targeted Victory to slow down legislation that would affect the platform’s political advertising spending.

In any case, parental controls can do so much to keep apps safe for teens – the apps themselves also need to make sure they don’t provide content that is unsafe for teens.

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