The social networking giant says it is exploring the possibility of introducing a version of Instagram aimed at the very youngest children, arguing that they will now be able to use the platform and “share photos safely.”
BuzzFeed News first reported in March that Facebook had announced in an internal company release it would begin developing a version of Instagram for people under the age of 13 to allow them to use Instagram “safely” for the first time.
A company release cited “youth work as a priority for Instagram,” as reported by The Guardian on Saturday. The company argues that it will focus on the safety and privacy of minors.
Zuckerberg’s efforts to promote the premature use of cell phones and social networks contradict the consensus of health professionals and pediatricians worldwide.
Without going any further, an international coalition of child health advocates has called on Facebook to abandon its plans to create an Instagram product for children, citing serious harm to children and adolescents from excessive use of social networks.
In a letter coordinated by the nonprofit youth advocacy organization Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, more than 20 groups and dozens of individual advocates and researchers assert that an Instagram for kids “would put young users at great risk” and implored CEO Mark Zuckerberg to scrap the project.
The letter cites a “growing body of research” demonstrating the negative effects social networks have on children and youth.
“Instagram, in particular, exploits young people’s fear of missing out and desire for peer approval to encourage children and teens to constantly check their devices and share photos with their followers,” the letter says. “The platform’s relentless focus on appearance, self-presentation, and branding presents challenges to adolescents’ privacy and wellbeing.”
The letter further argues that Instagram is currently already proven to have serious negative effects on teens, so it is presumed that the impact may be even more severe for those under 13 years of age. Considering this data, it is impossible not to think that only a perverse mind could push such a project and put at risk the health of our future leaders and workers.
“Young children are highly persuadable by algorithmic prediction of what they might click on next, and we are very concerned about how automated decision making would determine what children see and experience on a kids’ Instagram platform,” the letter said.
The Guardian also reported that Congressmen Edward Markey, Kathy Castor, Richard Blumenthal, and Lori Trahan wrote to Zuckerberg asking for more information about the project, about which they said they had “serious concerns,” but so far the social media mogul has not granted further information and is keeping it a mystery.
At a hearing related to Facebook’s antitrust concerns this year, Zuckerberg shrugged off criticism of the platform and said that “clearly there are a lot of people under the age of 13 who would want to use a service like Instagram.”