A letter sent by the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG) has pressed TikTok and Snapchat to offer parents greater ability to monitor their children’s social media usage and shield them from online threats with parental control apps. Tuesday’s plea points to research revealing the negative impact social media usage can have on young people’s lives and underscores that app creators have the ability to equip parents with protective tools.
NAAG’s accompanying press release points to statistics showing that a large proportion of adolescents and teens encountered nudity or sexual content online. Smaller proportions engaged in conversations about drugs or alcohol, expressed or experienced violent thoughts, and experienced bullying according to an analysis of over 1 billion messages on a single app during 2021.
The letter does not provide specific guidance but underscores the value of parental controls especially on platforms like TikTok and Snapchat with vast amounts of content and substantial youth userbases. “Empowering parents is necessary in today’s online environment, a place that can be considerably hostile for our youth,” the correspondence says.
NAAG’s letter comes amidst a larger debate about the safety of social media apps for tweens and teens. In 2020, the Federal Trade Commission requested information from six social media platforms concerning what they knew about their platforms’ impact on teens. Another bill proposed to end “likes” for content posted by children to address multiple ills of social media including high youth screen time and online manipulation.
Last year, Meta Platforms came under fire by NAAG for its proposed rollout of a version of Instagram for kids. Supposedly, the company kept quiet about internal research showing the degree to which its platforms negatively impacts physical, emotional, and mental well-being of young users, as partly explained by whistleblower Frances Haugen.