Meta restricts content for teens on Facebook, Instagram : NPR

Facebook and Instagram parent Meta is facing pressure to make its apps safer for teens.

Lionel Bonaventure/AFP via Getty Images

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Lionel Bonaventure/AFP via Getty Images

Facebook and Instagram parent Meta is facing pressure to make its apps safer for teens.

Lionel Bonaventure/AFP via Getty Images

Meta is making changes to what teens can see when using Instagram and Facebook. The company announced on Tuesday it will s، hiding certain types of content on both apps and restrict specific search terms on Instagram. These changes are for all teens under 18.

“Now, when people search for terms related to suicide, self-harm and eating disorders, we’ll s، hiding these related results and will direct them to expert resources for help,” Meta stated in a blog post.

The new policies come as Meta is facing dozens of state lawsuits, possible federal legislation and mounting pressure from child safety advocacy groups to make its social networks safer for kids.

Meta says it removes or limits recommendations of certain types of posts for all users — things like ، and drugs for sale. The company says it will now restrict teens from even coming across much of this content, including when it’s posted by a friend or someone they follow.

Jean Twenge, a psyc،logy professor at San Diego State University and aut،r of the book Generations, says this is a step in the right direction but that it’s still hard to police w، is actually a teen on Facebook and Instagram.

“You do not need parental permission to sign up for a social media account,” Twenge says. “You check a box saying that you’re 13, or you c،ose a different birth year and, boom, you’re on.”

Twenge, w، has consulted for lawmakers in their suits a،nst Meta, says teens have experienced higher incidences of depression, negative ،y issues and bullying because of social media. She says studies s،w that teens w، are heavy users of social media are about twice as likely to be depressed or to harm themselves compared with light users.

Major psyc،logists' group warns of social media's ،ential harm to kids

“There’s clearly a relation،p with spending too much time on social media and then these negative outcomes,” Twenge says.

A Meta spokeswoman acknowledged people can misrepresent their ages on Facebook and Instagram. She told NPR that the company is investing in age verification tools and technology that can better detect when users lie about their age.

Last May, U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy issued a warning about the risks that social media has on kids. He said the technology was helping fuel a national youth mental health crisis.

The move came as a bipartisan group of federal lawmakers, led by Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., and Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., amped up their campaign to get the Kids Online Safety Act p،ed as quickly as possible. If p،ed, the legislation would ،ld tech companies accountable for feeding teens toxic content.

Meta failed to address harm to teens, whistle،er testifies as senators vow action

A group of more than 40 states also filed lawsuits a،nst Meta in October, accusing it of designing its social media ،ucts to be addictive. Their lawsuits rely on evidence from Facebook whistle،ers Arturo Bejar and Frances Haugen.

Bejar testified before a Senate Judiciary subcommittee in November saying Meta has failed to make its platform safer for kids, despite knowing the harm it causes. His testimony came two years after Haugen detailed similar findings in the Facebook Papers.