The tool, which will be available to all users but mainly aimed towards women and teenagers, will be an optional setting on both Facebook and Instagram and will also be active in encrypted messages. This follows criticism from the government and police after Meta decided to encrypt Messenger chats by default.
It is a feature, Meta says, which is solely designed to protect users from either being sent or pressured into sending nude images, while an additional policy change to Meta’s primary platforms will be that minors are unable to receive messages from strangers. Instagram and Messenger already prevent adults over the age of 19 from messaging teens who do not follow them by default.
Meta says it has “developed more than 30 tools and features to help support teens and their parents.” These latest updates take the protection of minors online to a new level of safety. The California-based firm has said it will release more information regarding the features designed to help protect teens from seeing potentially inappropriate images in their messages later this year.
Will Meta’s new safety tools put parents’ minds at rest?
The BBC reports that police chiefs in the UK have said young people sending nude images on social media contributed to a rise in sexual offenses committed by children in England and Wales.
What’s more, legal filings made public as part of a US lawsuit against Meta allege company documents show around 100,000 teenage users of Facebook and Instagram are sexually harassed online every single day.
Therefore, Meta’s responsibility to keep its young users safe cannot be understated, and these most recent updates suggest they are taking that responsibility seriously. The fact they will be available with encrypted messages, too, will be a positive move in the eyes of concerned parents.
The tech company first launched a parental supervision tool on Instagram in 2022, which includes giving the parents the ability to set time limits, and schedule breaks, to be notified when their teen blocks or reports someone and to be notified when their settings have been changed.
Recent changes have given parents even more control, with changes to safety and privacy settings now requiring parental approval.
CEO of ConnectSafely, Larry Magid, said: “Empowering parents to approve or deny requests to change their teen’s default settings gives parents the tools they need to help protect their teens, while at the same time respecting their teens’ privacy and ability to communicate with their friends and family.”