Instagram for Kids is a really bad idea, Facebook told by US lawyers

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Facebook's rumored plans for an 'Instagram for Kids' app haven't been very well received so far – and they've just come under even more fire in a bombshell letter written by a group of 44 US attorneys general.

The Instagram for Kids app, which isn't yet official, could apparently allow children under the age of 13 to use the modified photo-sharing app. Currently, Instagram requires all users to be 13 or older to use the service.

But a letter signed by 44 US attorneys general has told Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, exactly why the kid-friendly version of Instagram shouldn't be introduced. 

Their arguments against Instagram for Kids include Facebook's apparent "record of failing to protect the safety and privacy of children on its platform", research that "increasingly demonstrates that social media can be harmful to the physical, emotional, and mental well-being of children" and the alleged prevalence of cyberbullying on Instagram.

BuzzFeed News was the first to report on Facebook’s plans back in March, and since then many experts and organizations have already asked the social media giant to rethink its plans.

What is Instagram for Kids? 

Facebook hasn’t outlined any details of its Instagram for Kids app publicly, so we can’t say for certain what it’ll involve. Though leaked details give us an idea of what we might see.

Rather than being a kid-only Instagram platform, it instead looks likely to be more like YouTube Kids. On that app, parents are given control over a child’s account and can filter the kind of content that they are allowed to watch – right down to specific channels and videos.

We imagine that on Instagram this could mean parents will control over who their children can follow, what they can post, who is allowed to follow them. But this is all just speculation until Facebook makes an official announcement on the service.

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Analysis: Why does Facebook want to make an Instagram for Kids? 

The evidence raised by the US attorneys general points to Instagram for Kids being a poor idea, so why is Facebook keen to launch the service? Facebook argues it is trying to make Instagram safer for children, by giving them a guarded way to use the platform so they don’t create an account using a fake birthday.

While this could be true, we imagine that growing its already huge user base is a core reason too. We hope that Facebook won’t introduce child-specific advertising on Instagram for Kids, but even if it doesn’t do that immediately, it could be playing the long game. 

If Facebook can get people using Instagram earlier in life, they could remain rooted in that ecosystem even as they grow older – at which point Facebook would have a great understanding of what sponsored content that user will interact with.

The Instagram for Kids concept certainly hasn't been well-received so far, and it's possible that Facebook could instead change tack by clamping down on Instagram's safety for young people Proper age verification could be one step, and continued safety tools and support would also help. We’ll have to wait and see what decision Facebook takes next in all of this, but we hope it listens to the warnings. 

Hamish Hector
Senior Staff Writer, News

Hamish is a Senior Staff Writer for TechRadar and you’ll see his name appearing on articles across nearly every topic on the site from smart home deals to speaker reviews to graphics card news and everything in between. He uses his broad range of knowledge to help explain the latest gadgets and if they’re a must-buy or a fad fueled by hype. Though his specialty is writing about everything going on in the world of virtual reality and augmented reality.