A framework for legislation to support parents and protect teens online

Antigone Davis
4 min readJan 16, 2024


We need clear, consistent federal legislation that makes it simpler for parents to oversee their teens’ online lives. That’s something we can all agree on — whether you’re a parent, policymaker, regulator, or part of the industry.

As a parent and Global Head of Safety Policy at Meta, I’m constantly thinking about ways to achieve this. In practice, this means collaborating with lawmakers, child safety experts, parents, and my industry peers to develop workable legislation that supports parents and protects teens. Teens move fluidly from one app or service to the next, and any regulation in this space needs to reflect how parents and teens actually use apps. It also needs to apply to the ever-evolving nature of these technologies, so that companies can implement requirements for the long term.

While some US states have put proposals and new laws on the table, they often fall short. Setting up parental consent with the hundreds of apps teens use by sharing your ID or credit card, or even your child’s ID each time, is cumbersome for parents and raises privacy concerns. Furthermore, laws that hold different apps to different standards in different states will leave teens with inconsistent online experiences.

Last year, I wrote about the unworkable nature of these state laws (some of which go into effect early this year) and a new concept that helps parents: federal legislation requiring app stores to get parents’ approval when teens under 16 download an app.

According to a recent Morning Consult poll, parents across both sides of the aisle overwhelmingly support this approach. 81% of Democratic-leaning and 79% of Republican-leaning parents back federal legislation for parental approval of teen app downloads. Over 75% of parents prefer app stores as more secure and straightforward venues for approving downloads, and a more effective method than individual app-level.

In addition to offering a simpler way for parents to approve their teens’ app downloads, federal legislation needs to create standards for all apps to adhere to in areas like age-appropriate content, age verification, parental controls, and more. We want to help find workable solutions, and today we’re sharing a proposed framework for legislation. We designed this framework to create clear, consistent standards for all apps, to empower parents and guardians, and to preserve user privacy, in ways that are technologically feasible for the industry.

A Framework for Federal Legislation:

  • Parental approval for teens under 16 on the app store: Require app stores to get parental approval for teens under 16 to download an app.
    Empowering parents to approve their teens’ app downloads ensures that they oversee their teens’ online experience. Placing the point of approval within the app store simplifies the process and leverages optional approval systems already offered by app stores. App stores would notify parents and request their approval when their teen wants to download an app, including Instagram.
  • Parental controls: Require certain apps, including social media apps, to offer supervision tools for teens under 16 that parents can activate and control.
    Quite simply–parents should have the tools they need to guide and support their teens online. Certain apps, including social media apps, should be required to offer some form of parental supervision tools, including the ability to set daily time limits on teens’ usage, see which accounts their teen is following or friends with, and more. Furthermore, apps can quickly and easily implement these tools if a parent relationship is established in the app store.
  • Age verification at the app store: Require app stores to verify age and provide apps and developers with this information.
    Knowing a user’s age helps ensure that apps can easily place teens in the right experience for their age group, but parents and teens should not have to provide sensitive information like government IDs to hundreds of apps to verify their age. Parents already provide this information when they purchase a teen’s phone and set up their teen’s account. App stores have this information and not only can they ease the burden on parents by sharing it with apps, they can help ensure teens are placed in age-appropriate experiences.
  • Content standards: Require industry to develop consistent age-appropriate content standards across the apps teens use.
    Parents are eager to have a better understanding of the content available to their teens and to have guidelines to help them evaluate whether an app is appropriate for their child. We need broader alignment across industry on the types of content companies should consider age appropriate, as there is for other media like movies and video games. It’s time we have common industry standards for what is age-appropriate that parents can rely on.
  • Pre-emption: Establish national standards to unify the complicated patchwork of inconsistent state laws, and that apply to all apps consistently.
    Speaking of standards, it’s time we have national standards. Parents expect consistent standards across all the apps their teens access — regardless of where their teens access or use them.
  • Ads Targeting: Require industry to develop ads targeting and delivery standards that, for example, limit the personalization of ads for teens under 16 to age and location only.
    Industry standards on ad targeting and delivery can help to ensure teens see relevant ads for age-appropriate products and services in their community (e.g., a college prep course) while eliminating the ability to target this audience based on online behaviors or activity. Personalizing ads by age and location is common across industries: for example, advertisers may place relevant ads during teens’ TV shows, or in magazines or newspaper sections designed for teens.

We recently submitted this framework to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) and the Administration’s Task Force on Kids Online Health & Safety. We are continuing to work with lawmakers directly to advocate for these concepts, and to ease the burden on parents.



Antigone Davis

Vice President, Global Head of Safety at Meta. Former State AG's Office and teacher. Always mom of Jojo.