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By Chris Sutcliffe, Senior reporter

May 10, 2023 | 4 min read

Meta’s latest European ad campaign is aimed at educating parents about their control over kids’ social media. Will it change regulators’ hearts and minds?

The Meta platforms – primarily Facebook and Instagram – are accessible by anyone aged 13 and up. According to Hootsuite analytics, in 2022 roughly 8.5% of Instagram users were aged 13 - 17, and a further 30.1% are in the 18-25-year-old demographic. As a result, there are a number of children who use those platforms, albeit with some restrictions.

Now Meta has announced the roll-out of a campaign designed to educate parents about the tools available to keep children safe on Instagram. The campaign highlights the Daily Time Limit supervision tool, which caps the amount of time a user can spend on the platform, and Default Private Accounts, which automatically sets young peoples’ profiles to private to limit discoverability.

The campaign will run across print, out-of-home, digital, audio and connected TV in the UK, France and Belgium for two months, with no further plans to expand it into other countries. It does, however, build on similar campaigns in the US that have run previously. It was developed by creative agency SS&K, supported by Meta’s in-house Creative X team.

Ciara Farren is marketing director for Europe at Meta. She explained: “We want to help keep young people safer online, which includes supporting parents and guardians to be more involved in their teens’ experiences”.

“Meta’s developed more than 30 tools to support families, including supervision tools, that help parents and teens work together to manage teens’ time on our platform. We want parents and teens to know about these tools – and to use them – so today we’re launching a new ad campaign to help make parents aware of our safety and supervision tools.”

The campaign follows a number of incidents that have highlighted the need for children’s safety online. A body of evidence suggests that poor mental health in young people tracks is positively correlated with time spent on social media: per a recent study from stem4, 97% of children as young as 12 are now on social media, with the average daily time spent on apps and platforms reaching 3.65 hours.

According to the stem4 study, almost 70% of respondents said that social media makes them feel “stressed, anxious and depressed”, and negative impacts on perceptions of their own body image are widely reported.

The change also follows the FTC in the US barring Meta from monetizing data collected from children. It is also accusing Meta of breaking the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Rule – specifically by misrepresenting parental controls on its Messenger Kids app. As a result, while the education around parental controls is likely to be welcomed by campaigners, it is also potentially an attempt by Meta to get out ahead of any similar rows in Europe.

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