Facebook had announced its plans of creating a version of Instagram exclusively for children under 13, and the social media company is now receiving a warning from an international coalition of children's health advocates to not pursue the plan.
An open letter was organized by the youth advocacy non-profit Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, in which several groups, individual advocates, and researchers called on Mark Zuckerberg to abandon the plan, saying that it would put young people at risk, hence doing more harm than good.
The letter also quotes researches, suggesting that excessive use of digital devices and social media is harmful to adolescents.
The letter reads, “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 with their followers. The platform's relentless focus on appearance, self-presentation, and branding presents challenges to adolescents’ privacy and wellbeing. 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. Moreover, young children are highly persuadable by algorithmic prediction of what they might click on next, and we are very concerned about how automated decision making would determine what children see and experience on a kids' Instagram platform.”
Some Congress Democrats including Edward Markey, Kathy Castor, Richard Blumenthal and Lori Trahanh had also reached out to Mark Zuckerberg last month, voicing their concerns about Facebook’s plan to release a version of Instagram for kids.
Facebook had received similar criticism back in 2017 too, when it launched Messenger Kids for children between 6-12 years of age. Mark Zuckerberg was pressured by children's health advocates to discontinue the product.