Meta expands Instagram parental controls and brings supervision to the Metaverse

A representational image of Quest 2 VR headset (Photo: AFP)
A representational image of Quest 2 VR headset (Photo: AFP)


For parents who wish Instagram had a closing time, the app’s parental controls now let them set off-limits hours for their teens. Supervision for Quest VR headsets is also here

Meta Platforms Inc. on Tuesday expanded its Instagram parental controls and introduced its first virtual-reality supervision tools, part of its effort to make its services safer for teens.

The new tools for the photo-sharing social network let parents set limits on what hours their teens can use Instagram. And inside the app, teens who dwell on certain content will be redirected.

Meta is also introducing similar features in its VR products, giving parents some say in what their kids can do inside Quest headsets.

The new Instagram tools are currently rolling out in the U.S. and will arrive in other countries, such as the U.K., Japan and Australia, later this month. They should be available globally by the end of the year, Meta said. The VR parental supervision is rolling out world-wide starting Tuesday.

Instagram updates

Instagram launched its first parental controls in March, giving guardians the ability to see how much time their teens spend on the app, set time limits, view what accounts their kids follow and see who follows their teens. Teens also could notify their parents when they reported inappropriate behavior on Instagram.

With the earlier tools, the teens had to initiate parental supervision. Tuesday’s update now lets parents make the request to their children, who still must approve it. Teens can revoke parental-control permissions at any time, but doing so triggers a notification to the parents.

Parents can designate quiet hours for each day or week and if their teen reports an account or post for inappropriate behavior, the parents will be able to see more information, such as the type of report and the account that was reported.

Meta’s efforts to provide tools to protect teens online has come amid concerns about social media’s impact on younger users. Internal research found Instagram is harmful for a sizable percentage of young users, particularly teenage girls with body-image concerns, according to a Wall Street Journal article published in September as part of the Facebook Files series. Instagram’s parent company disputed the characterization of the findings. Following the series and pressure from lawmakers, Meta indefinitely halted efforts to build a version of Instagram for children under age 13.

Meta also said Tuesday it is rolling out notifications to encourage kids to switch to a different topic if they’re looking at the same type of content in the Explore tab for 30 minutes. It will recommend another topic in that section, but will filter out posts “associated with appearance comparison."

The new notification feature has limitations. The teens can ignore the prompt and continue looking at the same content they had been exploring and the nudges don’t remove the content from a teen’s Explore tab. To stop seeing it, they have to train Instagram’s algorithm by tapping on an item and saying they’re not interested in it, said Dayna Geldwert, Instagram’s global head of policy programs.

Instagram will also soon expand its Take a Break feature to Reels, letting users set up alerts to tell them when they’ve been watching the short-form videos for a given period. Meta is testing Reels break reminders in the U.S., U.K., Ireland, Canada, Australia and New Zealand and will launch in those countries and others later this summer.

Metaverse controls

Meta is adding new parental-supervision tools to all Quest VR headsets. The software will automatically block teens from making some app downloads based on their International Age Rating Coalition ranking. If teens want to purchase games outside their age level, such as those rated 16+ or 18+, they can submit an “Ask to Buy" request. That sends a notification to their parents for approval or denial through the Oculus smartphone app.

Parents can receive purchase notifications whenever their teens buy something in VR, view all Oculus apps their kids own and block specific apps on their teens’ accounts. They also can see how much time their kids are spending in VR and view their Oculus friends list.

One wrinkle: To set up VR parental controls, the teens must initiate the process.


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