Advocates urge Zuckerberg to abandon plans for kids Instagram

Collaborator: Brittany Harlow
Published: 06/04/2021, 6:59 PM
Edited: 06/04/2021, 11:26 PM

(NATIONAL) “Dear Mr. Zuckerberg, We are writing to urge you to cancel plans to launch a version of Instagram for children under 13.”

Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC), a national organization devoted to limiting the impact of commercial culture on children, and dozens of other organizations sent this letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg last month, urging him to hit the brakes on targeting young kids. 

They say more than 180,000 parents and caregivers, 65 child development experts, 44 state attorneys general and four leading members of Congress are standing with them. And they’re asking the public to as well, by signing their petition to Facebook. 

Facebook purchased Instagram in 2012. 

Buzzfeed published an internal Instagram memo earlier this year, which discussed the company’s plans for “building a version of Instagram that allows people under the age of 13 to safely use Instagram for the first time.”

The outlet reported head of Instagram Adam Mosseri told them it is currently a challenge to verify a user’s age but “part of the solution is to create a version of Instagram for young people or kids where parents have transparency or control.” 

Buzzfeed’s article also referenced a previous report from the Verge that detailed a bug with Facebook’s current child platform “Messenger Kids” that allowed children to join groups with strangers, resulting in a situation in which “thousands of children were left in chats with unauthorized users, a violation of the core promise of Messenger Kids.” 

In their letter to Zuckerberg, child advocates said creating Instagram for young children would put them at “great risk” by exploiting rapid developmental changes and posing challenges to adolescent privacy and emotional well-being. 

Additional health concerns included: 

Increased likelihood of obesity

Psychological wellbeing

Decreased happiness

Decreased quality of sleep

Increased risk of depression

Increases in suicide-related outcomes such as suicidal ideation, plans, and attempts

Increased risk for eating disorders 

Increased risk of being groomed for sexual abuse 

Also included in the letter, a breakdown of social media’s impact on children by clinical psychologist Bethany Cook:

“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.” 

Finally, the letter included Facebook’s previous comments to advertisers (made public in leaked documents) that it could target teens at the exact moment they were feeling bad about themselves, including when they have negative thoughts about their bodies.

Zuckerberg told lawmakers during testimony earlier this year that Facebook was still thinking about how an app for kids would work, but that there “is clearly a large number of people under the age of 13 who would want to use a service like Instagram.”

Instagram for kids under 13 is reportedly in early stages of development. 

What do you think about Instagram for kids? Let us know in the comment section below!


This story has no comments yet