Meta advocates for parental consent laws for teen app downloads

Social media giant Meta has called for legislation that would require app stores to get parental approval before their teens download any app. This would effectively place the responsibility on parents, as well as Google and Apple, to protect younger users from potentially harmful apps.

“Parents should approve their teen’s app downloads, and we support federal legislation that requires app stores to get parents’ approval whenever their teens under 16 download apps,” said Antigone Davis, Meta’s global head of safety. The company is proposing a plan that would see app stores notifying parents when their teen wants to download an app, similar to how they are alerted when a kid under 13 tries to access a social media app. The parent would then approve or deny the request.

Meta’s approach would let parents verify their teen’s age when they set up a phone, rather than requiring everyone to verify their age multiple times across various apps. The company suggests legislation is needed to ensure all apps that teens use are held to the same standard.

It notes that states are enacting “a patchwork of different laws,” some requiring teens to get parental approval for different apps and others mandating age verification. However, “teens move interchangeably between many websites and apps, and social media laws that hold different platforms to different standards in different states will mean teens are inconsistently protected,” Davis wrote.

Under current proposals, Meta argues that parents would need to navigate different signup methods and provide “potentially sensitive identification information” for themselves and their teens “to apps with inconsistent security and privacy practices.”

Utah is moving to pass a law that will require social media apps to obtain parental consent before a teen can use them. Arkansas has already passed social media age verification laws. However, following a legal challenge from tech companies, a federal judge blocked the Arkansas legislation a day before it was set to take effect in September. The Utah laws are scheduled to come into force in March.

Meta’s call for federal legislation could be seen as an attempt to pass the responsibility to parents and app stores. A judge recently refused to dismiss lawsuits against Meta, YouTube parent Google and TikTok owner ByteDance that blamed them for teens’ social media addiction. In October, 41 states and the District of Columbia sued Meta for allegedly releasing “harmful features on Instagram and Facebook that addict children and teens to their mental and physical detriment,” among other things.