Big Tech companies often don’t prioritize child safety, and parents know it.
Eighty-two percent of American parents are concerned about Big Tech’s influence on their children’s lives, according to a new poll by child advocacy nonprofit Parents Defending Education. The survey found that “over two-thirds of parents (68%) are not comfortable allowing their kid to use TikTok without adult supervision, including 73% of parents aged 18-34.”
Parents Defending Education found that 37 percent of parents (57 percent of Republicans and 42 percent of independents) agreed with the statement that “China is using TikTok to spy on or manipulate Americans, especially kids, and the U.S. Government should step in and ban TikTok because it is a threat to national security.” Just 17 percent agreed that TikTok is “not collecting any information that puts Americans at risk and it is not something we should worry about.”
Parents trusted Snapchat the least as 74 percent of parents said they were “not that comfortable” or “not comfortable at all” with their children using the app “without adult supervision.”
TikTok was a close second at 68 percent, with Twitter following at 66 percent, and Facebook and Instagram each with 63 percent of parents uncomfortable with their kids using the platform without adult supervision. YouTube was the only app that over 35 percent of parents said they were comfortable allowing their children to use without supervision.
Parents Defending Education President and founder Nicki Neily in a press release described why she believes parents have growing concerns about Big Tech.
“From intrusive surveys in the classroom to data security to social media platforms, families are deeply worried about Big Tech’s influence both inside and outside school,” she said. “Parents desire more knowledge about – and control over – what their children have access to, and want policy changes that will empower them to keep them safe.”
Recent events give credence to parents’ concerns.
- China can allegedly access American user data. BuzzFeed News reported in June that TikTok‘s parent company ByteDance accessed non-public U.S. user data through the app and cited multiple audio recordings of internal meetings at TikTok. “Everything is seen in China,” one TikTok Trust and Safety Department member said during a September 2021 meeting, according to BuzzFeed News.
- Facebook doesn’t know where it stores your data. The Intercept reported that when two Facebook engineers were asked in a court hearing where personal user data is stored the two said they did not know the answer. Eugene Zarashaw, a Facebook engineering director, reportedly said “I don’t believe there’s a single person that exists who could answer that question,” according to The Intercept
- A Twitter whistleblower said the company mishandled user data. In a whistleblower complaint sent to Congress and other federal agencies, former Twitter Head of Security Peiter “Mudge” Zatko noted “serious deficiencies” in Twitter’s handling of privacy, information security and fundamental architecture. The Washington Post and CNN reported on the whistleblower complaint, which cited Twitter’s “Ignorance and misuse of vast internal data sets,” “Mishandling Personally Identifiable Information” and “Misrepresentations to the [Federal Trade Commission] on these matters.”
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