Instagram was recently said to be building an app intended for children below the age of 13. Now, an children advocacy group has written an open letter to Facebook Inc Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg to not create Instagram for children who are under 13, as it would put them at "great risk".
The coalition of 35 organisations and 64 individual experts, under the banner of Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood, has raised concerns about privacy, screen time, mental health, self-esteem and commercial pressure.
The letter comes in the wake of increasing global fears about tech giants trying to build kid-focused apps and tools.
Many tech companies and social media outfits are trying to lure kids under 13, who are technically not allowed on their platforms.
Children vulnerable to Instagram's manipulative & exploitative features
The letter asserted that social media built for kids could violate younger people’s privacy and create an increased risk of depression, among a wide variety of other potential harms.
The non-nonsense letter said: "Instagram’s focus on photo sharing and appearance makes the platform particularly unsuitable for children who are in the midst of crucial stages of developing their sense of self. Children and teens (especially young girls) have learned to associate overly sexualized, highly edited photos of themselves with more attention on the platform and popularity among their peers.”
In the post-Covid-19 environment, when kids are already enjoying excessive screen-time, experts also fear that such apps will only increase the time spent online.
"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," the letter said.
Facebook's argument disingenuous
The letter said the current version of Instagram itself was not safe for young children, as many have lied about their ages to create Instagram accounts.
Facebook, which owns Instagram, has defended its Instagram-for-kids plan, arguing that it’s an effort to keep younger people off its main service.
But then again, this argument is seen as disingenuous. For, reports have it that tens of thousands of minors are not only active in the app, but are also exposing their personal information on it.
Instagram Kids is supposed to be ad-free, and will likely feature parental controls.
It may be recalled that YouTube had also run into problems with its app for young people, YouTube Kids, which it launched in 2015. The company had to crack down on inappropriate videos being displayed to young people.
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