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We Can’t Trust You with “Instagram for Kids”

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Earlier this year, Facebook announced that a safer version of Instagram that is targeted at kids under the age of 13 is in development. Instagram has often been ranked among the most toxic social media platforms where instances of bullying and online abuse are often reported, and a lot of it has to do with young users coming in contact with adults with malicious intents. However, it appears that folks in the US justice department are not too happy with the move. A bipartisan coalition of 44 attorneys general, led by Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, have written to Facebook and urged it to drop the ‘Instagram for Kids’ project.

“It’s shameful that Facebook is ignoring the very real threat that social media poses to the safety and well-being of young children in an attempt to profit off of a vulnerable segment of our population. I’m joining my colleagues across the country who are heavily invested in protecting our youngest residents from harm, sexual predators, and cyberbullying to call on Facebook to abandon this reckless plan to exploit children.” 
– AG Healey

The letter says that Facebook has historically failed to protect children on its social media platforms. It also cites multiple research papers in claiming that social media is harmful to the physical, emotional, and mental well-being of children, and is also linked with self-injurious behavior, body image concerns due to unrealistic beauty standards, and suicidal tendencies among youth.

Facebook is not catering to a need, but creating one

Other research papers cited in the letter co-signed by state attorneys general flag how Instagram has often been found to fuel the desire for peer approval among teens, decreased self-esteem and life satisfaction, putting a relentless focus on appearance and self-presentation, and poses a serious threat to privacy as well.

“Second, young children are not equipped to handle the range of challenges that come with having an Instagram account. Children do not have a developed understanding of privacy. Specifically, they may not fully appreciate what content is appropriate for them to share with others, the permanency of content they post on an online platform, and who has access to what they share online.”

The letter also notes that instances of cyber-bullying are prevalent on social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram, and that predators often take advantage of anonymity to target children. In fact, it also cites another research claiming that 42% of the young Instagram users have suffered cyberbullying, which is higher than any other social media platform. The letter also mentions multiple instances of failure where Facebook’s claims of appropriate privacy and safety safeguards were proved wrong.

Facebook and Instagram are a hotbed of issues that affect physical and mental well-being of young users.

On a concluding note, the attorneys general note that Facebook is not actually catering to an existing demand for something like ‘Instagram for Kids’ but it is actually creating one. Facebook is beiung accused of creating a platform that is trying to lure children who otherwise would not create an Instagram account in the first place. To recall, Instagram doesn’t allow users below age 13 to sign up, but there is no fool-proof system in place to enforce that rule. Also, it isn’t the company’s first experience with such a product, as Facebook launched Messenger Kids with a similar premise a while ago. It now remains to be seen how Facebook responds to the appeal and whether it actually abandons the project.


Nadeem Sarwar

I’ve been writing about consumer technology for over three years now, having worked with names such as NDTV and Beebom in the past. Aside from covering the latest news, I’ve reviewed my fair share of devices ranging from smartphones and laptops to smart home devices. I also have interviewed tech execs and appeared as a host in YouTube videos talking about the latest and greatest gadgets out there.

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