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  • Writer's pictureJade

Instagram’s New Parental Controls, “Thanks Meta!” (Said no teenager ever)

Meta, the parent company of the social media giant Instagram has recently added parental controls and partnered with organisations. To provide features and resources to parents of teens regarding how to navigate Instagram safely. It is to be noted that teenagers will not stop using social media just because their parents do not want them to. Instead, these parental controls will give peace of mind to the parents while allowing their teenagers to access social media. The parental controls are designed to allow the use of Instagram under supervision. Parental controls will let parents and caregivers see who follows their teen, set time limits on Instagram, and weekly access reports on new connections made during that time. I will say ‘teenagers’ or teens due to the requirement for Instagram users to be at least 13 years old to make an account. Although I understand that children younger than this have access to social media, there is no verification process to ensure all users are above the age of 13. Parents and caregivers will now be notified with these controls when their teen reports an account or post, giving the teen the option to explain why they reported it. Meta hopes that the teen explaining why they reported an account or post will allow for healthy conversation regarding social media use. I have only ever written accounts or posts with an obvious explanation as to why I would report it, for example, posts showing illicit drug use, fake accounts using stolen images of people I know, and posts bullying someone. There are countless other examples of content that should be reported, and I believe that conversations could be had due to a teen reporting instances like these. But because of this might choose to avoid reporting or interacting with accounts or posts, knowing that they will have to acknowledge it again by talking with their parents about why what they reported was inappropriate or illegal. If a teen reported something, it is already obvious that they recognize that it is wrong in some sense. Do you believe they need an adult to explain why the account or post is bad when they already acted against it? I think teens will avoid the report button to avoid having these conversations, leaving posts or accounts to still exist on Instagram, potentially harming other app users and having more significant implications. Ultimately, the relationship between the parents and their teenager must be positive and trusting for these conversations to succeed. After these reports, Instagram plans to provide resources and links to information regarding anti-bullying, mental health, and eating disorders. Some hashtags are banned already; for example,#anorexia or #depression, when typed into the search bar, do not come up with posts or accounts and instead provide links to organisations that offer help. However, not all hashtags that could be considered potentially harmful are banned, meaning posts and accounts of a negative nature still exist; such as orthorexia (a lesser-known eating disorder) or a wide range of other hashtags, giving users and teenagers direct access to posts containing precisely what they are looking for. If Meta recognised that there is a broader range of searches and interests their users have that can be made, which ultimately contribute to the multitude is issues associated with the layout of the Instagram app.

It is important to note that these parental controls can only be implemented when both the parent and teenager agree to their use. Giving us teenagers the autonomy over the plethora of lawsuits and negative publicity directed at Instagram and its parent company has led me to assume that the parental controls and access to a resource are the Companys's attempt to amend its reputation and past. The list of lawsuits against the company exceeds a number my brain probably cannot compute. The company has faced lawsuits from governments and parents, involving issues as severe as national data leaks, eating disorders, and suicides. From a financial standpoint, Meta needs to remedy these issues to keep afloat; the billions of dollars that the company has lost from these lawsuits over recent years has led to the development of parental controls and the partnering with organisations that specialise in key issues. I could not imagine that many teenagers would be happy for the parental controls to be used to monitor their Instagram use. I would not be too pleased with these controls; even with the limited amount of time I spend on Instagram and the limited number of friends I have on my private Instagram account, I have nothing to hide. It’s just an invasion of privacy, it feels like. As parental controls can only be used when both parties agree to it, I don’t see it possible for cool and calm conversations to be had surrounding this use of such controls. I do, however, believe that the banning of particular hashtags and links to helpful organisations are steps toward gaining the trust of parents. I am not saying banning hashtags will solve most of the issues because teenagers, believe it or not, are smart humans and will always find another source to access the information they want to see if they try hard enough. New hashtags will be created surrounding the same topics that could be harmful to them, so Meta must stay on top of this issue to protect its users and avoid legal ramifications. Nonetheless, the access to resources for teenagers and parents will be a positive to come out of Instagram’s new updates. I am confident that these resources will benefit users when they so need them.

My name is Jade. I am 17 from regional NSW. I am passionate about bringing awareness to the safety of social media users because it is ever so present in my own life and the people around me.

I believe it is a hugely influential aspect of our lives as it shapes culture and social expectations and has significant impacts on our mental health. Ongoing education in regards to social media is necessary for the future.

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