On Wednesday, Meta announced a new set of supervision tools that will allow parents and guardians of teenage Instagram users to:
- View how much time their teens spend on Instagram and set time limits.
- Be notified when their teen shares they’ve reported someone.
- View and receive updates on what accounts their teens follow and the accounts that follow their teens.
The features are currently available for U.S.-based Instagram users. In the future, Meta plans to let parents set the hours during which their teen can use Instagram and allow more than one parent to supervise a teen’s account. It also plans to roll out the supervision features globally in the coming months.
The announcement comes months after The Wall Street Journal published an investigative series on Instagram’s harm to teenage girls, which resulted in heightened scrutiny of the platform. And as a former teenage girl who was glued to Instagram back when #thinspo hashtags ran free, feuds went down in comments sections, and like-count corresponded to school popularity status, I can certainly agree that Instagram can have terrible effects on teens.
Past protections for teenage users — While these parental supervision tools are new, Instagram has previously led efforts to protect its young users. In March 2021, Instagram enacted safety measures for teens including a new “safety notice” if random adults sent repeated messages to teens, as well as implementing AI techniques to understand the real ages of its users. Instagram users are required to be at least 13 years old, but tweens can (and do) lie about their age with impunity.
Instagram’s certainly not the first to the parental supervision party. TikTok’s parental control features came in early 2020. “TikTok for Younger Users,” a version of TikTok without commenting or messaging, has existed since 2019. YouTube, too, has a version of its app that’s customized for kid users.
VR supervision is coming — The supervision tools are coming to Quest headsets, too. In May, Meta will roll out its initial suite of VR parental supervision tools. It will begin automatically blocking teens from downloading or purchasing apps with age-inappropriate ratings.
Meta says that “different teens have different maturity levels, and parents know their teens best, so we’ll offer the ability for parents to override app blocks on a case-by-case basis.” Other VR supervision features include viewing Oculus friends, viewing headset screen time, seeing what apps their teen owns, and receiving purchase notifications.
The controls for all the Meta apps — including for Instagram, Quest, and Facebook — will be centralized in a hub Meta is calling the “Family Center.”