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By Faizel Patel

Senior Digital Journalist

Meta launches new features to further support teens and parents

Meta also announced South Africa's Family Centre, which features tools so people can connect online safely and responsibly.

Tech giant Meta has announced new features to support teens and families and make it even easier to manage the time they spend on apps.

Meta said the additions to Instagram, Facebook and Messenger build on the success of the recent launches of Take a Break, Parental Supervision tools on Instagram, and Quiet Mode, which launched in some countries earlier this year.

“We’re also introducing new tools to limit unwanted interactions in Instagram DM and Messenger, launching Quiet Mode on Instagram globally, nudging teens to set time limits on Facebook and giving parents even more ways to supervise their teens on Instagram,” Meta said.

The new features include:

  • New Parental Supervision tools on Instagram: Including the ability for parents to see how many friends their teen has in common with the accounts they follow or are followed by. 
  • New nudges to help teens manage their time on Facebook and Instagram: Building on the success of Take a Break and Quiet Mode.
  • A notification when they’ve spent 20 minutes on Facebook, prompting them to take time away from the app and set daily time limits.
  • A nudge on Instagram that suggests they close the app if they are scrolling Reels at night.
  • Quiet Mode: Which is designed to help teens focus and set healthy boundaries with friends and followers, will roll out globally in the coming weeks, after initially launching in earlier this year.
  • New restrictions to protect people from unwanted DM requests: People will now only be able to send one DM request to someone who doesn’t follow them – and they can only continue to send DMs once the recipient has accepted their request to chat.
  • These DM requests will also be limited to text-only: Meaning people can only send images or videos to someone who doesn’t follow them after the recipient has accepted their request to chat. In practice, this means people will no longer be able to receive unsolicited images or videos from people they don’t follow.

Meta said the updates have been designed to help teens feel in control of their online experiences and help parents feel equipped to support their teens.

“We’ll continue to collaborate with parents and experts to develop additional features that support teens and their families.” 

Family Centre in SA

“We’re also excited to announce the launch of the South Africa Family Centre,” said Meta.

Meta said it works with experts in mental health, child psychology, digital literacy and more, to build features and tools so people can connect online safely and responsibly.

“In addition to offering a wide range of online safety and privacy tools across its platforms, Meta’s newly launched Family Centre in South Africa, is an online portal that gives power to parents and provides them with the means to safeguard their children and teens.

“Available across Meta technologies such as Instagram, the Family Centre offers tools and resources to manage digital experiences across digital ecosystems,” Meta said.

Here are four ways Meta’s Family Centre and platforms enable parents to support their children online.

1. Supervision tools

By linking Meta accounts, parents can unlock a wide range of supervision tools that let them actively participate in their child’s digital activity. And, while teenagers don’t always think it’s cool that parents are on the app too, having an online presence can be very beneficial.

Using Family Centre on Instagram, parents can monitor who their teens are following and who follows them, as well as how much they spend on the platform everyday. They can also set daily time limits to manage the time spent scrolling.

2. Education Hub

Not every parent knows how to approach the topic of online safety, or how to enforce it. That’s why Family Centre’s Education Hub is an invaluable resource, providing parents with tips, insight, and comprehensive articles that help them and their families navigate online spaces.

Education Hub features expert input from leading parental organisations that specialise in media literacy, safety and communication, privacy, and overall digital well-being.

3. Healthy habits

South Africans are hooked on social media platforms, spending an average of three hours and 44 minutes online each day – more than the global average. Spending so much time online can result in us developing habits, which is why it’s vital that young people develop healthy ones.

For teens on Instagram, the ‘Take a Break’ feature allows them to make informed decisions and take control of how much time they spend on the app. If a user has spent a certain amount of time scrolling, Instagram will ask them if they want to take a break and suggest setting reminders to take more breaks in the future. 

In January, Meta also introduced Quiet Mode on Instagram, a new feature to help people focus and to encourage them to set boundaries with their friends and followers.

For example, when you turn on Quiet Mode, you won’t receive any notifications, your profile’s activity status will change to let people know you’re in Quiet Mode, and Meta will automatically send an auto-reply when someone sends you a DM. Meta is making Quiet Mode available to everyone on Instagram globally in the coming weeks.

4. Privacy by default

A big part of being in online spaces is the level of privacy those spaces provide. As such, there should always be privacy safeguards in place that determine what information other users can and cannot see.

For instance, Facebook users under the age of 16 are defaulted to certain privacy settings. This includes who can see their friends list, the people and Pages they follow, posts that they’re tagged in, and who can comment on their public posts. 

Sylvia Musalagani, Safety Policy Manager for Africa, Middle East and Turkey at Meta said they want help users, especially the younger generation to connect and foster relationships in a safe and secure environment,

“By taking a holistic approach and offering comprehensive resources and effective methods to set and monitor boundaries, that we can make a real difference in young people’s lives,” she said.

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