LANSING – Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel and a bipartisan coalition of 44 attorneys general – led by Attorneys General Lynn Fitch (MS) and Josh Stein (NC) – wrote TikTok and Snapchat this week to urge them to give parents the ability to monitor their children’s social media usage and protect their children from online threats using parental control apps.
“I remain very concerned about social media’s impact on the mental and physical health of young people,” Nessel said. “We live in a time when everything is shared on social media. Not only does that foster a comparison culture in which our kids are constantly exposed to unrealistic beauty standards, it also exposes them to the hateful rhetoric spewed by those who hide behind keyboards. I will continue to join efforts with my colleagues across the country aimed at protecting kids online.”
In addition to joining this action, Nessel previously joined investigations into TikTok and Meta Platforms, formerly Facebook. She also remains firm in her stance that Instagram should not launch a platform specifically for children under 13.
Research increasingly demonstrates the negative impact that social media can have on the physical, emotional, and mental well-being of children and teenagers. These range from decreased self-esteem and greater body-image dissatisfaction to increased exposure to cyberbullying and sexual predation.
Bark, which monitors platforms for safety concerns, reported that in 2021 it had analyzed more than 3.4 billion messages and found:
- 43.09% of tweens and 74.61% of teens were involved in a self-harm/suicidal situation;
- 68.97% of tweens and 90.73% of teens encountered nudity or content of a sexual nature;
- 75.35% of tweens and 93.31% of teens engaged in conversations surrounding drugs/alcohol;
- 80.82% of tweens and 94.50% of teens expressed or experienced violent subject matter/thoughts; and
- 72.09% of tweens and 85.00% of teens experienced bullying as a bully, victim, or witness.
As the attorneys general note in their letter, “Parental control apps can alert parents or schools to messages and posts on your platforms that have the potential to be harmful and dangerous. Apps can also alert parents if their child manifests a desire for self-harm or suicide. 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.”
Social media platforms already engage in some content moderation and operate under some community guidelines, but these are not always sufficient to protect children. Parental control apps empower parents to be full partners with the platforms to maintain a safe space online for their children.
AG Nessel was joined by the attorneys general of Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Guam, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.