Meta Urges Lawmakers To Require Parental Approval for App Store Downloads

Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, called on federal lawmakers Wednesday to pass legislation requiring parental approval for app store downloads by teenagers, as the company faces pressure to strengthen protections for children on its social media platforms, The Hill reported.

Under Meta’s suggested approach, parents would receive notification when their teens attempt to download an app and could decide whether to approve the download. They would also be able to verify their teen’s age when setting up the phone initially.

According to The Hill, a bipartisan coalition of 33 states also sued Meta in October, alleging the company knowingly designed and deployed features that harmed young users’ mental health. Another eight states, as well as the District of Columbia, also filed lawsuits against Meta in state court.

Meta posted news titled: “Parenting in a Digital World Is Hard. Congress Can Make It Easier”. It was written by Antigone Davis, Global Head of Safety. Here are some key paragraphs from the news:

Being a parent is hard. Parents always had the constant worry of how their children are doing in school, on the playground, on the sports field, but today’s generation of parents have a whole new world to navigate with their children: their online lives. I think about these challenges every day as we work to develop safe, positive experiences for young people on apps like Instagram, and as we think about making things simpler for parents.

Parents want to be involved in their teen’s online lives, and recent Pew research suggests that 81% of US adults support requiring parental consent for teens to create a social media account. But technology is constantly changing and keeping up with all the apps teens use can feel impossible. As an industry, we should come together with lawmakers to create simple, efficient ways for parents to oversee their teens’ online experiences.

…US states are passing a patchwork of different laws, many of which require teens (of varying ages) to get their parent’s approval to use certain apps, and for everyone to verify their age to access them. Teens move interchangeably between many websites and apps, and social media laws that hold different platforms to different standards in different states will mean teens are inconsistently protected.

Why does this affect parents? If laws are passed as written, every time your teen wants to sign up for an app (assuming the app follows the rules), you will need to go through different methods to sign up, provide your and your teen’s potentially sensitive identification and information to apps with inconsistent security and privacy practices, and repeat that process over and over.

There’s a better way. Parents should approve their teen’s app downloads, and we support federal legislation that requires app stores to get parents’ approval whenever their teens under 16 download apps. With this solution, when a teen wants to download an app, app stores would be required to notify their parents, much like when parents are notified if their teen attempts to make a purchase.

Parents can decide if they want to approve the download. They can also verify the age of their teen when setting up their phone, negating the need for everyone to verify their age multiple times…

In my opinion, it sounds as though Meta is putting pressure on parents to make decisions about what apps their teenagers can (or cannot) use. It also appears that Meta seems to be implying that U.S. lawmakers should make laws that govern all 50 states, rather than continue the patchwork quilt of laws regarding teens who use apps.