Social media is not suitable for children. The Consumers’ Association came to this conclusion after investigating eight social media apps. The union scrutinized Facebook, Instagram, Signal, Snapchat, Telegram, TikTok, WhatsApp and YouTube.

The platforms do not take enough into account the vulnerability of children, is the opinion. In addition, the privacy of young users is violated and there are too few child-friendly settings.

Director of the Consumers’ Association Sandra Molenaar does not go so far as to say that children are not allowed to use the apps. “That’s not the solution. But the fact is that the platforms in their current form are not a safe environment for children. That has to change.”

According to Molenaar, this cannot be left to the tech companies, “because they show time and again that they cannot do it”. She believes additional rules are needed to better protect children. “The best interests of children should already be taken into account in the design of the apps.”

The association investigated which options the apps offer children and parents to make it a safe platform. For example, only Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and YouTube set the profile of young users to private by default.

Data retention

Only Facebook and Instagram offer the possibility to keep track of how long the app is used and to set a maximum time. TikTok and YouTube are the only platforms that allow parental controls. But for this the parents have to install the app themselves, after which their data is also collected.

In four of the eight apps, it is too difficult for users to delete data when the account is terminated, according to the association. With Snapchat, Instagram and Telegram, this must be done via the website. It is not clear at TikTok whether the service removes all personal data, the association says.

Ads are also tailored to the personal characteristics of young users. That’s what Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and TikTok do. The union believes that the latter goes too far because TikTok also bases the advertisements on the behavior and location of the children.

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