February 25, 2024

Meta to Block Under-18 Users from Receiving DMs From Strangers

In a move aimed at protecting minors on two of the world’s largest social media platforms, Meta has announced a new safety update for Facebook and Instagram.

Teens aged under 16, or 18 in some places, will no longer receive direct messages from strangers, i.e., users who they don’t follow or aren’t connected to already.

This new default setting helps teens and their parents feel even more confident that they won’t hear from people they don’t know in their DMs.Meta

The stricter safety controls come as a part of Meta’s ongoing efforts to ensure “age-appropriate experiences for teens” across its platforms.

Parental Approval Needed to Turn Off the New Setting

The new security setting will be activated by default for all minor users on Instagram and Facebook.

If you’re an existing user to whom the changes apply, you’ll get a notification at the top of your feed, informing you of the change to your message settings.

While you will still have the option to turn off the setting, it might require your parents’ approval.

Now, let’s say you’re a parent of an underage adult. Until now, you were simply notified when your children made a change to their default privacy and security settings. However, you’ll now be able to approve or reject such requests.

This means teens using a supervised account would not be able to change their direct messaging settings in order to be able to receive DMs from strangers unless their parents approve of the change.

Trying to turn off the security setting will notify you, along with a prompt to approve or decline the attempt.

While a previously introduced feature blocked adults over 19 years from direct messaging minors, the new change applies to all strangers.

As a parent, these changes offer you greater control over the online interactions of your children. The new feature is aimed at facilitating in-person conversations between teens and their parents, Meta said.

The company believes that it would help them steer their online lives better and determine their family’s best interests.

The update comes at a crucial time when social media platforms are under increasing scrutiny over the impact they have on teens.

In December 2023, New Mexico’s Attorney General Raul Torrez sued Meta for failing to protect the younger Facebook and Instagram users from being exposed to sexual abuse material and even allowing adults to ask them for explicit imagery.

Newly redacted documents from the case underscore the Mark Zuckerberg-led tech giant’s “historical reluctance” to protect children, the lawsuit says.

It’s worth noting that Meta has announced the introduction of a new feature that would block underage users from viewing inappropriate images sent to them, even by people they are connected to.

The company is also expanding its suite of parental supervision tools and has introduced a number of features over the last two years. Not too long ago, tools were rolled out on Facebook and Instagram to limit access to content related to eating disorders or self-harm for teens.

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