(TND) — Most adults and many teenagers support parental consent, age verification and time limits for young people on social media, according to a pair of new surveys from the Pew Research Center.
Surveying took place just before dozens of states filed a lawsuit against Meta, the parent company of Instagram and Facebook, alleging the platforms farm user data to reap profits at the detriment of teens’ mental health.
"Our bipartisan investigation has arrived at a solemn conclusion: Meta has been harming our children and teens, cultivating addiction to boost corporate profits," California Attorney General Bonta, one of the parties to the lawsuit, said in a news release. "With today’s lawsuit, we are drawing the line. We must protect our children and we will not back down from this fight."
The Pew Research Center asked both teens and adults what they thought of parental consent requirements for social media accounts, age restrictions and time limits.
81% of adults say they support social media companies requiring parental consent.
71% of adults favor requiring people to verify their age before using social media sites.
69% of adults favor setting limits on how much time minors can spend on these platforms.
46% of teens support parental consent, with 25% opposing it.
56% support age verification (16% oppose).
34% support time limits (36% oppose).
Danny Weiss, chief advocacy officer for Common Sense Media, said the survey results are understandable, but parental consent requirements aren’t their preferred approach.
He said policymakers need to enact guardrails on the companies, which need to design features in a way that minimize potential harms.
Weiss said the biggest problems lie with addictive features, such as auto-play videos and continuous scroll feeds.
He said the Pew Research Center findings show that families are seeking help.
“We can see that teenagers are asking for some type of controls to be put on them, because it's so hard for them to put them on themselves,” he said.
U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy issued an advisory earlier this year to call attention to the potential dangers of social media use for children and teens.
And Common Sense Media published reports that illustrated how omnipresent social media and smartphones are in the lives of our children.
One report offered a “road map” for how teen girls experience social media.
Common Sense Media surveyed more than 1,300 girls and found social media to be a mixed bag.
Certain common features took more blame than any one platform for negative experiences.
YouTube emerged as a mostly positive platform. But TikTok, Instagram and Snapchat were fairly similar in perception. One wasn't that much better or worse than another.
Girls were most likely to say that location sharing (45%) and public accounts (33%) had a mostly negative effect on them compared to other features.
But even those features weren’t seen as absolutely bad, as some girls said location sharing helped them keep in touch with friends or keep friends safe.
Social media use is nearly universal among teens, with 98% of the girls in that survey saying they’ve participated.
Another Common Sense Media report found teenagers are using their phones from morning to night, at school, while they’re doing homework, and when they should be getting sleep at night.
Teens who were part of that report got a median of 237 notifications, constantly being pinged and distracted in a way that impacts their mental health and other daily activities.
And more than two-thirds of teens said they often find it difficult to put down their phones.
Weiss said Friday that one of the problems with a parental consent approach is that it “does leave companies off the hook for changing the nature of their platforms.”
And it ignores the potential benefits teens can find among online peer groups, he said.
“If the sites that they were on were less damaging to teenagers’ overall well-being, their mental health, and in many cases their physical health, that would be the better approach to take,” Weiss said.
He said he doesn’t have a problem with time limits, noting TikTok rolled out a feature to set a 60-minute daily screen time limit.
But he said the content and engagement features still matter more.
“Again, 60 minutes of really awful content is going to be very damaging to a child,” Weiss said.
Engagement for profit must be addressed, he said.
Just a day after the states filed their lawsuit against Meta, the company reported higher earnings for the third quarter, boosted by an increase in advertising revenue.
How young is too young for social media?
Weiss said that’s a question each parent must answer for their own child.
“But what we do say is that you have to have a greater relationship with your child and the world that they're living in when it comes to media and technology,” he said.
Talk to your children, and understand what they’re seeing online, Weiss said.
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