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Child safety groups urged Facebook to cancel its plans of launching Instagram for kids

Facebook announced that it is working on a trimmed-down version of Instagram which can be only used by children who are not more than 13.

twitter-logoAnkita Chakravarti | April 16, 2021 | Updated 14:07 IST

Highlights

  • Child safety advocates have urged Facebook to cancel its plans of making Instagram for kids under the age of 13
  • As per Instagram policies, users under the age of 13 cannot create an account for themselves.
  • The child safety groups had raised concerns about the mental health, privacy and other factors of the kids under the age of 13.

Facebook announced that it is working on a trimmed-down version of Instagram which can be only used by children who are not more than 13. However, a group of child safety advocates have urged Facebook to cancel its plans of making Instagram for kids under the age of 13 as it could put users at "great risk". As per Instagram policies, users under the age of 13 cannot create an account for themselves, so Facebook had plans of launching an app exclusively for kids.

The Commercial-Free Childhood, a Boston-based nonprofit organization, had coordinated with 35 organizations and 64 individual experts to write to Facebook to abandon its plans of introducing Instagram for kids. The child safety groups had raised concerns about the mental health, privacy and other factors of the kids under the age of 13.

"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 of their followers. The platform's relentless focus on appearance, self-presentation, and branding presents challenges to adolescents' privacy and wellbeing," the letter reads.

The letter further mentioned that the younger children are not equipped to handle the pressures that come along with accounts on social media platforms. "Younger children are even less developmentally equipped to deal with these challenges, as they are learning to navigate social interactions, friendships, and their inner sense of strengths and challenges during this crucial window of development," it adds.

Instagram vice president of product, Vishal Shah had talked about building a version of Instagram that allows people under the age of 13 to safely use Instagram for the first time in an internal company post which was obtained by Buzz Feed. However, the company said that the news of Instagram working on a Kids-only app had leaked prematurely.

"We agree that any experience we develop must prioritize their safety and privacy, and we will consult with experts in child development, child safety and mental health, and privacy advocates to inform it. The reality is that kids are online. They want to connect with their family and friends, have fun and learn, and we want to help them do that in a way that is safe and age-appropriate. We also want to find practical solutions to the ongoing industry problem of kids lying about their age to access apps," Instagram spokesperson Stephanie Otway told NBC news.

Most kids these days lie about their age to create an account on Instagram or even Facebook. Even if social media comes with a different version of the app for the kids it would not interest them because chances are that they are already using the app meant for adults. When they already have access to all the content on the main Instagram, why would they want to migrate to a new one? Instead of working on a new app, Facebook should make the sign-in process more different for underage users.

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