Social media giant Meta introduced new technology this week making it more difficult for kids to send and receive nude photos on Instagram and Facebook.

The proliferation of personal technology in 21st century inundated parents with a plethora of new challenges — sexting being chief among them. Smartphones with cameras and social media apps like Snap Chat, which delete photos after 24-hours, turned sharing nude photos from an improbability to a common mode of communication among children.

A 2019 study of 54 million text messages and 1.5 million hours of phone usage by the parenting software Jiminy found one in three teens will ask for nude photos.

An astounding 24% of children studied had either sent or received a nude photo by the tender age of 13.

Sending such personal photos — both real and fake — exposes children to physical and emotional danger. Compromising photos can be shared and leaked among peers, causing humiliation, shame, embarrassment, blackmail, and even suicide.

The privacy and anonymity of the internet of the internet can also make it easy for predators to take advantage of vulnerable images. To date, more than 20,000 children have reportedly fallen victim to “financial sextortion,” writes tech reporter Julie Jargon for The Wall Street Journal, which occurs when predators threaten to expose compromising images or videos in exchange for money.

Meta’s new service combats the harms of sexting by encouraging minors to use caution. Sending a nude photo will trigger a pop-up message warning kids about potential scams and offering them option to “unsend” the image.

The software will also offer protection to those receiving nudes by temporarily blurring the photo, triggering a pop-up message explaining how to block the user and reminding the user that they don’t have to respond.

The new features, which will roll out in the coming months, confirm research showing that social media’s seamless commenting and messaging systems can contribute to harmful rhetoric.

Turns out, people speak rashly when they don’t have an opportunity to think about their words.

In 2021, Facebook added a feature preventing users from commenting more than once every five minutes in group chats. “This could be a great circuit breaker in tense or argumentative debates,” Social Media Today wrote at the time, “giving people a moment to take a breath and think about what they’re posting, rather than reacting in the heat of the moment.”

Twitter (now X) eliminated the automatic retweet feature during the 2020 election for similar reasons. Hopefully, Meta’s new changes will encourage kids to think twice about sending nudes, too.

Though the sprawling company frequently fails to protect children on its social media platforms, these features exemplify ways social media companies can empower parents to shield their kids from harm online.

Though companies and governments can assist parents in protecting children, the Daily Citizen believes parents are ultimately responsible for the wellbeing of their kids. We encourage you to take all steps necessary to protect them from the threatening world of personal tech — even if it means abstaining.

To learn about legislation empowering parents in your community, contact your local Family Policy Council.

For more information and ideas on raising your kids in a technological world, check out the resources below.

Additional Articles and Resources

Four Ways to Protect Your Kids from Bad Tech, from Social Psychologist Jonathan Haidt

Social Psychologist Finds Smartphones and Social Media Harm Kids in These Four Ways

What to Do About Fake Nude Photos and the Horrors of A.I.

Taylor Swift Deepfakes Should Inspire Outrage — But X Isn’t To Blame

Horrifying Instagram Investigation Indicts Modern Parenting

‘The Dirty Dozen List’ — Corporations Enable and Profit from Sexual Exploitation

‘Big Tech’ Device Designs Dangerous for Kids, Research Finds

Social Media Age Restriction—Which States Have Them and Why They’re So Hard to Pass

Pornography Age Verification Laws: What They Are and Which States Have Them

Plugged in Parent’s Guide to Today’s Technology