AGs Question Safety of Kids-Only Instagram

Attorneys general from 44 states and territories have asked Facebook to ditch its plan to launch a kids’ version of Instagram.

Under federal privacy regulations, children under the age of 13 are technically not allowed to use the Instagram app. In March, Facebook confirmed that it was "exploring a parent-controlled experience" on Instagram that could be used by minors under the age of 13.

In a letter sent yesterday to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, the attorneys general urged Facebook to "abandon these plans," citing research that indicated social media, especially Instagram, is damaging to children's mental health. 

"Use of social media can be detrimental to the health and well-being of children, who are not equipped to navigate the challenges of having a social media account," stated the letter.

"Further, Facebook has historically failed to protect the welfare of children on its platforms."

The attorneys general went on to reference research carried out by dozens of organizations and experts that links the use of Instagram to depression, body image concerns, and suicidal ideation among children and adolescents. 

In the letter, they criticize recent comments made by Facebook on the impact of social media use on children, considering this research.

The letter states: "This data and research directly contradict your statements made at the March 2021 Congressional hearing dismissing the idea that social media is harmful to children and claiming that '[t]he research we’ve seen is that using social apps to connect to other people can have health benefits.'

"This overly simplified statement conflates the benefits of social connection (of which there are many) with purported benefits of using social media to enable that connection, which as outlined above, carry distinct harms to young children."

The attorneys general warned that young children who lack a fully developed sense of privacy may not understand what content is appropriate for them to share with others. They warned that this could leave children who use the proposed kids Instagram app vulnerable to sexual grooming. 

A 2019 report by the charity NSPCC found that sex offenders were grooming children on Instagram more than on any other online platform. 

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