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The National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG) has sent a letter to TikTok and Snapchat urging them to beef up parental controls by allowing third-party monitoring apps to check what kids are up to not just in public portions of platforms, but in direct messages to other users.

Attorneys general from 44 U.S. states signed the letter, which pitches the idea that social media platforms’ community guidelines and the content moderators they hire to enforce those rules “are not always sufficient to protect children and teenagers who are particularly vulnerable to online threats, especially with regard to direct messaging.”

The letter cited a study done by parental control app Bark, which examined 3.4 billion direct messages sent across 30 social media apps in 2021.

Bark says messages revealed that 74.61% of teenagers expressed self-harm or suicidal ideation, that 90.73% of teenagers had encountered nudity and/or sexual content on social media, that 93.31% of teens “engaged in conversations surrounding drugs/alcohol,” that 94.5% of teens “expressed or experienced violent subject matter/thoughts,” and that 85% of teens “experienced bullying as a bully, victim, or witness.”

NAAG argues these findings indicate the negative impact of social media on teens (not a novel revelation) as well as the potential for them to be exposed to sexual predators and cyberbullying.

Lawmakers hammering social media platforms for failing to adequately protect young users is far from new. But this letter takes a different tack than previous warnings and investigations in two ways: one, it’s specifically pointing to direct messages; and two, it’s not necessarily asking platforms to improve their own in-house systems.

Instead, this letter urges platforms to partner with—and thus give access to—third-party parental control apps.

“Parental control apps can alert parents or schools to messages and posts on your platforms that have the potential to be harmful and dangerous,” the letter says. “On other platforms where these apps are allowed to operate appropriately parents have received notifications of millions of instances of severe bullying and hundreds of thousands of self-harm situations, showing that these apps have the potential to save lives and prevent harm to our youth.”

NAAG did not endorse a particular third-party app. It also did not publicize details about which platforms have embraced parental control apps, and does not appear to have discussed the potential child privacy and data security issues that could come with allowing third-party apps to access kids’ private communications.

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Source: TubeFilter.com

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