Social Media

Facebook Urged to Scrap Its Plans to Launch a Version of Instagram for children.

A group of public health advocates from around the world have penned a letter to Facebook to scrap its plans to launch a version of Instagram for children. A letter from the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, signed by 99 groups and individuals, claims the “image-obsessed” platform is dangerous for children’s health and privacy.

This letter comes after plans for an Instagram for under-13s have been mooted in recent weeks. Facebook, which owns Instagram, said it would be “managed by parents”. In March, Buzzfeed reported on an internal company post in which executives discussed plans to build a version of the photo-sharing app that could be used by children who are under the legal age to join Instagram.

The social media giant said in a statement, “Kids are already online, and want to connect with their family and friends, have fun, and learn. We want to help them do that in a safe and age-appropriate way, and find practical solutions to the ongoing industry problem of kids lying about their age to access apps. We’re working on new age verification methods to keep under-13s off Instagram, and have just started exploring an Instagram experience for kids that is age-appropriate and managed by parents.”

Facebook, along with other social media platforms, is under growing pressure to find ways to stop the under-13s from joining. But children can do so by lying about their age. In the letter, the signatories point out that those under the age of 13 already on Instagram are unlikely to “abandon it for a new site that seems babyish”.

Facebook said in a statement, “We agree that any experience we develop must prioritize their safety and privacy, and we will consult with experts in child development, child safety, and mental health, and privacy advocates to inform it. We also won’t show ads in any Instagram experience we develop for people under the age of 13.”

The letter cites research from The Royal Society for Public Health which rated Instagram as the worst social media platform for youth mental health. The report claims Instagram is linked to an increased risk of eating disorders, cyber-bullying, and sexual grooming. Just this week, Instagram was forced to apologize after a “mistake” meant diet content was promoted to users with eating disorders.

Josh Golin, Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood executive director, said: “Instagram’s business model relies on extensive data collection, maximizing time on devices, promoting a culture of over-sharing and idolizing influencers, as well as a relentless focus on often altered physical appearance. It is certainly not appropriate for seven-year-olds.”

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