Associations urge Zuckerberg to scrap ‘Instagram for kids’ project

According to the organisations behind the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, a number of studies "demonstrate that the excessive use of digital devices and social media is linked to a number of risks for children and adolescents, including obesity, reduced psychological well-being, increased risk of depression and increased suicide outcomes". [Shutterstock/Ink Drop]

Several associations have called on Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg to put an end to his plans, said to be devised in the name of child protection, to develop an app similar to Instagram but aimed at children under the age of 13. EURACTIV France reports.

The open letter addressed to Zuckerberg, signed by more than thirty consumer and child protection associations, was released after Buzzfeed revealed on Sunday (18 March) an internal exchange in which Instagram Vice-President Vishal Shah announced he was working on “building a version of Instagram that would allow people under 13 to use Instagram safely for the first time”.

According to the letter’s signatories, “launching a new version of the app for a very young audience is not the right remedy” to the existing version of Instagram that is “not safe for children under 13”.

A Facebook spokesperson told EURACTIV France that “kids are already online, and want to connect with their family and friends, have fun, and learn. We want to help them do that in a safe and age-appropriate way, and find practical solutions to the ongoing industry problem of kids lying about their age to access apps”.

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However, the social media company did not want to comment on the dates of a possible launch.

“We agree that any experience we develop must prioritise safety and privacy, and we will consult with experts in child development, child safety and mental health, and privacy advocates to inform it,” said Facebook, adding that no ads will be integrated into this new “experience” for young people.

According to the organisations behind the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, a number of studies “demonstrate that the excessive use of digital devices and social media is linked to a number of risks for children and adolescents, including obesity, reduced psychological well-being, increased risk of depression and increased suicide outcomes”.

Moreover, “it is unlikely that children aged 10-12 who already have an Instagram account will migrate to a ‘baby’ version of the platform after experimenting” with the original version of Instagram, the letter reads.

James Steyer, the founder of Common Sense, another signatory organisation, also said in the press release that “Facebook is going back to its old tricks, offering another product designed to get kids hooked when they are the most vulnerable”.

Facebook told EURACTIV France that it is currently working “on new age-verification methods” as Instagram’s terms of use require users to be at least 13 years old.

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[Edited by Luca Bertozzi/Zoran Radosavljevic]

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