Child Safety groups urge Facebook to abandon plans of launching Instagram for kids

Samriddhi Bisht
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The group raised concerns regarding privacy, mental health, screen time, self-esteem, and commercial pressure in a letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to abandon plans to launch Instagram for Kids.

An international coalition of 35 organizations and 64 individual experts, coordinated by the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, a Boston-based nonprofit organization, urged Facebook executive Mark Zuckerberg on Thursday to cancel plans to launch a version of Instagram for children under 13 as it would put the young users at great risk. The group raised concerns regarding privacy, mental health, screen time, self-esteem, and commercial pressure in a letter directed to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

The letter was in response to the news that came out last month about Facebook building a version of Instagram for children under 13. This was done to ensure the safety and privacy of children under 13 on Instagram. Instagram kids is supposed to be ad-free with parental control.

Though the coalition agreed that the current version of Instagram is not safe for young children, many children have even lied about their ages to create Instagram accounts. "However, launching a version of Instagram for children under 13 is not the right remedy and would put young users at great risk," the letter by the coalition says.

Adding on to the letter, the coalition said, "Children between the ages of 10 and 12 who have existing Instagram accounts are unlikely to migrate to a “babyish” version of the platform after they have experienced the real thing. The true audience for a kids’ version of Instagram will be much younger children who do not currently have accounts on the platform. While collecting valuable family data and cultivating a new generation of Instagram users may be good for Facebook’s bottom line, it will likely increase the use of Instagram by young children who are particularly vulnerable to the platform’s manipulative and exploitative features."

Also Read: Facebook, Instagram users can now appeal removal of harmful content to Oversight Board

Childhood development experts who signed the letter stressed the concerns that Instagram can cause on children. A clinical psychologist Bethany Cook notes, "We all know social media- especially Instagram allows us control over what we share with the outside world. Many of us prefer to show our “best light” and/or a “filtered” version of our life. When children see this version of life and then compare it to their own, it often creates feelings of anger, frustrations, resentment, depression, and stress they don't know how to emotionally process on their own. It doesn't matter if you explain to them “it's all fake,” because the part of their brain needed to fully comprehend and understand this concept isn't fully developed until around the age 21-25."

The lawmakers in the letter even pointed out the vulnerable Facebook security. They added, "Facebook’s long track record of exploiting young people and putting them at risk makes the company particularly unsuitable as the custodian of a photo-sharing and social messaging site for children."

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