Meta Unveils New Teen Privacy Settings on Instagram, Facebook

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Social media giant Meta has announced a brushed-up take on its privacy features for teens on Facebook and Instagram.

According to a Meta blog post, the changes will boost privacy and protection for minors under the age of 16 — or under 18, depending on the country — by limiting interactions with “suspicious adults,” controlling the spread of intimate images, and encouraging the use of new privacy tools and practices.

Teens signing up for new accounts will get these new settings by default, while existing users will be nudged to select more privacy-conscious settings for their accounts.

New Measures to Protect Minors

In Meta’s update published Monday, the company said it is trying to distance teens from suspicious adults — individuals who have been recently blocked or reported by a young person — they are not connected to by removing them from Facebook’s “People You May Know” recommendations. On top of that, Meta might remove the ability for suspicious adults and teens to message each other altogether on Instagram.

Meta is also introducing extra notifications that will encourage teens to use new safety tools, such as the ability to report accounts after they have been blocked — supplemented by advice on how to deal with inappropriate messages from adults.

“In just one month in 2021, more than 100 million people saw safety notices on [Facebook] Messenger. We’ve also made it easier for people to find our reporting tools and, as a result, we saw more than a 70% increase in reports sent to us by minors in Q1 2022 versus the previous quarter on Messenger and Instagram DMs.”

In addition, Meta said it is working with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), experts, parents, victims, and others to build a global platform focused on anti-sextortion — one that will help curb the spread of teens’ intimate images online.

Over 75 percent of people reported to NCMEC for sharing child exploitative content did so out of “outrage, poor humor, or disgust, and with no apparent intention of harm,” Meta said.

Meta is also working with Thorn’s “NoFiltr” brand “to create educational materials that reduce the shame and stigma surrounding intimate images, and empower teens to seek help and take back control if they’ve shared them or are experiencing sextortion.”

New Privacy ‘Defaults’ for Facebook

Starting this week, minors that are just joining Facebook will be “defaulted into more private settings,” Meta said. Those already on the app will be prompted to choose the new defaults, which can all be enabled via a single toggle.

Similar changes were rolled out for Instagram last year — aligning it with Meta’s “safety-by-design” approach and “Best Interests of the Child” framework — the company said.

The new privacy defaults modify who can see teens’ friends list, people, “Pages” and lists they follow. In addition, they also affect who can see teens’ posts if they are tagged in them, add the ability for teens to review tagged posts before they are published and check who is allowed to comment on their public posts.

Meta’s [ex-Facebook] apps are no strangers to privacy incidents and dubious policy-making. In September this year, Instagram was fined €405 million Euros for mishandling teens’ data by Ireland’s DPC.

Two years earlier, Facebook was knee-deep in several costly lawsuits regarding the violation of users’ privacy rights. These are some examples of what prompted Facebook to re-brand itself as Meta in an attempt to regain public trust — like tweaking the privacy of its subsidiary WhatsApp in 2021.

Some Additional Tips

Though Meta’s bid to better protect teens from the dangers of the online world is a necessary first step, it’s still essential for parents and teens alike to educate themselves on what threats might lurk. We’ve compiled a full guide on how to deal with sexting and teens, which often occurs on social media.

While the spread of self-generated intimate images is enough to cause concern, social media users could also ultimately end up embroiled in sextortion-related incidents.

Whether or not you’re a teen, the parent of one, or just a casual user, there are also plenty of steps that can be taken to optimize your privacy on social media. For everything Facebook privacy-related, we’ve compiled an ultimate Facebook privacy settings guide. Likewise, we’ve also put together an explainer on how to secure your privacy without deleting Instagram.

Tech researcher & communications specialist
Mirza has an education background in Global Communications, has worked in advertising, marketing, journalism and television over the years while living in several different countries. He is now working to consolidate news and outreach at VPNoverview.com, while in his free time he likes to work on documentary projects, read about sociology and write about world events.