WHAT’S BEING CLAIMED:
- A group of children advocates sent Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg a letter on Thursday, appealing for the Instagram kids’ version to be scrapped.
- They argued that the app will only exploit rapid developmental changes among kids, damage their physical and mental health, and increase bullying and sexual harassment.
- Some lawmakers also urged the cancellation of the plan.
“A kids’ version of Instagram is not a good idea.” This is the stand of children advocates who voiced their opinion and sent Facebook a letter, calling for the company to scrap the new Instagram platform tailored to children 13 years old and below.
Nearly 100 experts and advocates brought the concern to Facebook on Thursday, saying that the plan would be “harmful” to adolescents’ developmental growth.
Led by the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, the group made their argument in a letter addressed to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
“Launching a version of Instagram for children under 13 is not the right remedy and would put young users at great risk,” the letter read. “…It will likely increase the use of Instagram by young children who are particularly vulnerable to the platform’s manipulative and exploitative features.”
In a statement to PEOPLE, Facebook spokesperson Stephanie Otway said that they recognized the sentiments and are working for a middle ground.
“We’ve just started exploring a version of Instagram for younger teens. 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,” Otway said. “In addition, we will not show ads in any Instagram experience we develop for people under the age of 13.”
Otway further said that the idea sprung up from the “reality” that “kids are online.” She added that kids now want to connect, have fun and learn, and that the new platform will reinforce these activities.
“We’re working on new age verification methods to keep under-13s off Instagram and we’re exploring an Instagram experience for kids that is age-appropriate and managed by parents,” the spokesperson continued.
Thursday’s letter also mentioned that the new Instagram may exploit rapid developmental changes among elementary and middle school-aged children — damaging children’s mental and physical health. Usage of the app may also increase bullying and the chance of interaction with sexual predators.
The plea surfaced a month after Facebook’s announcement of the new app’s additional safety features.
On April 5, US Senators Ed Markey and Richard Blumenthal, and Congresswomen Kathy Castor and Lori Trahan sent a letter to Zuckerberg, appealing for app plans to be cancelled. The lawmakers asked questions about the app’s purpose and safety, indicating that they receive answers by April 26.