The National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG) is urging TikTok and Snapchat to give parents the ability to monitor their children’s social media usage and protect their children from online threats using parental control apps.
In a letter to TikTok and Snapchat, a bipartisan coalition of 44 state and territory attorneys general expressed concern that the companies are not taking appropriate steps to allow parents to protect their kids on the platforms and asked them to conform to widespread industry practice by giving parents increased ability to protect their vulnerable children.
Research increasingly demonstrates the negative impact that social media can have on the physical, emotional, and mental well-being of children and teenagers. These range from decreased self-esteem and greater body-image dissatisfaction to increased exposure to cyberbullying and sexual predation.
One app analyzed more than 3.4 billion messages in 2021 and found:
- 09% of tweens and 74.61% of teens were involved in a self-harm/suicidal situation
- 97% of tweens and 90.73% of teens encountered nudity or content of a sexual nature
- 35% of tweens and 93.31% of teens engaged in conversations surrounding drugs/alcohol
- 82% of tweens and 94.50% of teens expressed or experienced violent subject matter/thoughts
- 09% of tweens and 85.00% of teens experienced bullying as a bully, victim, or witness[i]
“Parental control apps can alert parents or schools to messages and posts on your platforms that have the potential to be harmful and dangerous. Apps can also alert parents if their child manifests a desire for self-harm or suicide. On other platforms where these apps are allowed to operate appropriately parents have received notifications of millions of instances of severe bullying and hundreds of thousands of self-harm situations, showing that these apps have the potential to save lives and prevent harm to our youth,” reads the letter.
Social media platforms already engage in some content moderation and operate under some community guidelines, but these are not always sufficient to protect children and teenagers who are particularly vulnerable to online threats, especially with regard to direct messaging. Parental control apps empower parents to be full partners with the platforms to maintain a safe space online for their children.
The attorneys general did not advocate for a specific parental control app in their letter, but recognized “the value of allowing secure and credible parental control apps to assist with monitoring, especially on platforms like [TikTok and Snapchat] with vast amounts of content and with large number of youth users.”