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How Safe Are Meta and Facebook for Minors?

Published on Oct 6, 2023 by Thomas Law Offices.

How Safe Are Meta and Facebook for Minors
If you’re a parent or guardian, especially of teenagers and children, one of the most important things you can do is keep your kid safe online. These days, nearly everyone is on some kind of social media platform, with two of the most popular being Facebook and Instagram, both of which are under the parent company Meta. We’ll dig into what kind of privacy settings and parental controls Meta and Facebook have and what action you can take if you think your child’s safety online has been compromised by Meta or Facebook.

Safety and Privacy Settings for Minors on Meta

Facebook privacy settings always seem to be changing, but according to a 2022 article from Meta, privacy settings for teenagers and children have been updated on Facebook and Instagram. The apps don’t allow anyone over the age of nineteen to send private messages to teens who don’t follow them, and they released an update in July 2023 that allows eighteen and nineteen-year-olds to message anyone within a two-year age gap.

Other Meta safety features include:

  • Pop-up safety notices: When an adult contacts a minor on Facebook or Instagram, a safety notice will pop up asking the minor if they know that adult in real life, and if they don’t or if they feel unsafe or uncomfortable with any interaction, how to report that person to Facebook.
  • Privacy defaults: For anyone under the age of 16 who joins Facebook, their privacy settings automatically are stricter, such as who can see their friends, who can see their posts, who is allowed to comment on their posts or images, etc.
  • Preventing the sharing of images: Meta is working with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) to build a global platform that would prevent intimate images of teens from being shared across social media or online.

While all these features are great for keeping our kids safe on these apps, parents should still think about the information our children share, who’s seeing it, and who may be stealing or selling our kids’ private information.

Problems With Messenger Kids

Most people use Facebook or Instagram in some capacity, and those of us with kids know how badly our children want to stay constantly connected with their friends. In 2017, Facebook released the Messenger Kids app with the claim that parents would be required to approve every friend that their child connects to within the app. However, some children were able to connect and communicate with unapproved contacts within the app via group text and group video chats.

Kids are vulnerable, which is why the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) imposed the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) Rule in 1998. This act prohibits all collection, use, or disclosure of any private information from and about children on the internet. Not only did Facebook allow kids to communicate with unapproved contacts, but they also allowed third-party app developers access to the app, selling user information, including their private data, which is a direct violation of the COPPA Rule.

How To Keep Your Kids Safe Online

Children, defined by the COPPA Rule as an individual under the age of 13, have easy access to the internet and social media, and as parents, we want to make sure our kids are safe. Even with this act in place, we should still closely monitor our kids’ online interactions, and here are some ways to keep an eye on who’s talking to your kids and what your kids are posting:

  • Download an app to monitor your child’s phone and online activity
  • Teach your child about internet safety (not accepting friend requests or responding to messages from strangers, etc.)
  • Check your child’s friends lists frequently to see if there’s anyone you don’t recognize
  • Read the comments on your child’s social media posts for anything inappropriate
  • Check your child’s direct messages for questionable content
  • File reports on any social media platform against anyone or anything that is not suitable for your child’s age group

We can’t control what other people do online, but we can be more aware of the kinds of people who are out there and how much information our children share with the world. Teaching our children how to be safe online and monitoring their social media is the best way to keep our kids safe while still allowing them to connect and have fun.

Claims Against Meta

There have already been several cases against Facebook and Meta for breach of privacy and claims that Meta misrepresented its privacy practices, specifically pertaining to children and teenagers. Multiple complaints have been filed against Facebook by the FTC since 2011, with several orders secured that Facebook agreed to abide by and that have since been broken.

  • In 2011, Facebook agreed to stop misrepresenting its privacy practices but violated that order within months of it being secured in 2012.
  • In 2019, Facebook agreed to a second order, which took effect in 2020, that was intended to resolve the violations of the first order.
  • In 2023, Facebook has yet another claim against them not only for violating the 2020 FTC order but also the COPPA Rule.

According to reports from the FTC, Meta and Facebook have consistently violated orders not to steal or sell their user’s private information. They were required to pay a $5 billion fine in 2020 and yet continue to violate the orders from the FTC that they have agreed to, putting not only adults but children at risk. A new FTC order will ban Meta from selling children’s data and also impose more security regulations on all Meta-owned companies (Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, and Oculus).

Thomas Law Offices Can Help Fight for Your Kids

Although bringing cases against companies like Meta and Facebook may be daunting, there are many ways their services have been misrepresented, causing harm to children. Our experienced legal team at Thomas Law Offices is here to help guide you in the fight to protect your children and their right to privacy. With an organization like the FTC already bearing down on these privacy violations, other organizations are likely to follow. Call our Chicago personal injury law office today for a free consultation.

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Tad Thomas - Trial Lawyer

Tad Thomas

Managing Partner

Tad Thomas has dedicated his practice to representing plaintiffs in various types of civil litigation, including personal injury, business litigation, class actions, and multi-district litigation.

After graduating with his law degree in 2000 from Salmon P. Chase College of Law at Northern Kentucky University, Mr. Thomas immediately opened his own private practice and began representing injury victims.

In 2011, Thomas Law Offices was established in Louisville, Kentucky. Over the past decade, Mr. Thomas has expanded his firm and now has offices in three additional locations: Cincinnati, Ohio, Columbia, Missouri, and Chicago, Illinois. He is also a frequent lecturer on topics like trial skills and ethics and technology.

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