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Meta Director Talks Teen Safety Online 

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Meta Director Nicole Lopez Talks Teen Safety Online 

On March 15, Meta brought together a collective of Houston parents, creators, and teenage wellness experts to host a workshop and demonstration, focusing on Meta’s work to create positive environments for teens online. Through their policies and app features, Meta aims to foster collaboration between teens and parents to ensure the best possible experience for both parents of teens and the teens themselves. 

 

The event comes as part of Meta’s Screen Smart Program, an initiative to assist parents with feeling confident in raising their teens in an increasingly online world. Hosted at the Ronin Art House in Houston, the event featured speakers such as developmental psychologist Dr. Aliza Pressman, and Meta’s Global Director of Youth Safety Policy, Nicole Lopez. 

Nicole Lopez’ Work

In an interview with Houston Family Magazine, Nicole Lopez spoke further about her work and what her position encompasses at Meta. She oversees a team of “subject matter experts” who collaborate with product makers and policymakers at Meta. These experts cover topics such as “bullying and harassment, parental supervision, experts who specialize in eating disorders, and body image issues,” among others. 

 

“They work with our product and policy teams to help them create safe and age-appropriate experiences for teens,” Lopez said. “We’re discussing with them the mitigations we should have in place to proactively support teens and their families, so they can work together to set the right boundaries for their experiences online. 

Local Parent Input

Around thirty parent creators were present at the event, including a few members of the Houston PTA, who were interested in the policymaking side of Meta’s work. Lopez emphasized the importance of allowing parents to candidly discuss the challenges and issues that come with raising teens in today’s world. 

 

“We’re going to talk to these parents about using devices safely, and they will also be learning more about the tools that Meta offers to empower parents.” Lopez described how “problem-solving collectively” allows for the empowerment of parents to “set the right boundaries for their teens. 

New Online Tools & Resources

“It’s why we’ve developed more than fifty tools and resources to help teens connect in safe ways,” Lopez explained. “That includes built-in protections, such as restricting age-inappropriate content, we default teens to private accounts,” meaning that a teen must approve who follows them and sees their content, and those who do not follow them cannot view who the teen is following or who follows the teen. 

 

A private account also prohibits anyone who is not following the teen from tagging them in a post. 

 

“We also default teens into messaging restrictions, and if teens are online after 10 pm at night, we nudge them to get offline,” Lopez continued. “We also have time management tools for teens, so that when they hit a certain time that they’ve been online, we pop up what we call a ‘take a break’ reminder, to encourage teens to get offline.”

 

Her team is also active in their work on parental supervision tools. 

 

“The parent can see how much time their team is spending online, they can set times of day that they don’t want the teen on our apps…they can also see who the teen is following and who is following the teen. And if the teen reports content or an account, the parent can see that.”

Building Trust

Lopez spoke of her understanding that helping teens online is more than just providing the best tools and protections.

 

“It’s also about building trust within the family,” she said, “when it comes to how smartphones are being used. But also helping [the teen] navigate unwanted contact online, which is why we have all those built-in protections…also supporting parents and teens as they talk about digital safety.”

 

Meta has a Family Center online which houses their Education Hub, a great tool that contains articles written by the experts Lopez’s team works with. Topics of these articles include everything from how to discuss cyberbullying with teens, to how to model good digital habits.

 

“Sometimes it’s hard for any parent to have conversations with teens about what’s happening in the real world,” Lopez added. “It gets increasingly tougher when it’s online.” 

 

The resources in the Education Hub are meant to support parents in having these kinds of difficult conversations with their teens. 

 

“Research shows that parental involvement is really critical to positive experiences online. I think it’s important for us and for other apps [outside of Meta]…to make it easier on parents.”

 

That aspiration is part of the impetus for having events such as the one held on March 15th, as it facilitates the conversations that allow Meta to make its tools easy for parents to use. 

Real Online Issues

Lopez was also interested in parental perspectives on a local level. 

 

“We want to know, what are the issues that Houston parents are facing, what are they thinking about,” Lopez said. “I hear in other cities that parents are overwhelmed and want to know how Meta makes it easier on parents, so I think that will come up,”

 

“In my role as a parent,” Lopez said, “and in my role at Meta, I’m always thinking about ways that we can support parents, which is why we want to talk with them.” 

 

“It’s the sense of community building, hearing from people…it’s great to have all the parents in one place.” 

Positive Impact

“We know that our apps are having positive impacts on teens…they’re ways for teens to connect,” Lopez asserted, describing how her work has made Meta’s platforms safer and better for teens to be engaging with.

 

“There’s a lot of good development, and there’s research from the National Academy of Sciences that supports just how positive it can be for teens.” 



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