Protecting kids from the harmful effects of social media is essential. Like other parts of the internet, there are concerns over children being exposed to unsuitable content, cyberbullying, and an array of potential mental health problems.
Among those concerned that we’re not doing enough to protect young people from these dangers is the public health group, Campaign for a Commercial-free Childhood.
The group is made up of public health advocates around the world. And, their goal right now is to get Facebook to cancel its plans to launch a new version of Instagram for children.
In a letter, which was signed by 99 different groups and individuals, concerns were raised over the impact the “image-obsessed” platform has on children’s health and privacy.
What does Facebook say about the app?
In the last few weeks, Facebook has begun to unveil its plans for a new version of its Instagram app, which would be aimed at kids under the age of 13.
Facebook says that the new app would be “managed by parents”, and would be designed for kids to connect with their friends and family, learn, and have fun in an age-appropriate way.
It added that prioritising safety and privacy would be a priority, it wouldn’t show any ads, and that it would consult with the child safety and mental health experts over the app’s features.
The tech giant also pointed out that this would help to deal with one of the biggest problems it faces: under-13s lying about their age to gain access to the platform.
It says that, in addition to this new, more suitable app, it will be working on new ways to verify users’ ages in order to keep young people that are under 13 off of Instagram.
What are the key concerns?
There’s been growing pressure on Facebook – as well as other social media platforms – to stop children lying about their age and signing up for adult accounts.
However, a concern raised in the Campaign for a Commercial-free Childhood letter is that kids would be unlikely to abandon Instagram for a new app that seems “babyish”. “The real target of Instagram for kids will be much younger children,” it said.
Josh Golin, Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood executive director, said: “Instagram’s business model relies on extensive data collection, maximising time on devices, promoting a culture of over-sharing and idolising influencers, as well as a relentless focus on often altered physical appearance. It is certainly not appropriate for seven-year olds.”