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.
– AG Healey
Facebook has repeatedly failed to protect the health and wellbeing of children on its platforms. “Instagram for Kids” is a shameful attempt to exploit and profit off vulnerable people. I’m leading a letter to Mark Zuckerberg with 44 AGs to demand they abandon this plan.
— Maura Healey (@MassAGO) May 10, 2021
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.
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.
This is a dangerous idea that can be detrimental to children and put them directly in harm’s way.
— NY AG James (@NewYorkStateAG) May 10, 2021
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.
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.