A coalition of attorneys general from 44 states and territories is urging Facebook to scrap its plans to launch a version of its popular photo-sharing app Instagram for children younger than 13.
What You Need To Know
- Attorneys general from 44 states and territories sent a letter Monday urging Facebook to scrap its plans to launch a version of its popular photo-sharing app Instagram for children younger than 13
- The top prosecutors concerns include that social media can increase mental distress in children and that an Instagram for kids could become an oasis for cyberbullies and sexual predators
- Facebook said Monday that children already are on social media and that the company wants to develop a way to give parents visibility and control of their kids’ online activity
- Last month, an international coalition of 35 children’s and consumer groups also wrote a letter also urging Facebook to abandon the plan
The top prosecutors sent a letter to the social media giant Monday outlining their concerns, which include, they said, that “social media can be harmful to the physical, emotional, and mental well-being of children.”
“The attorneys general have an interest in protecting our youngest citizens, and Facebook’s plans to create a platform where kids under the age of 13 are encouraged to share content online is contrary to that interest,” they wrote.
The letter cited research that links young people on social media to an “increase in mental distress, self-injurious behavior and suicidality.” The attorneys general argued that social media can become addictive, that its focus on appearance can lead to low self-esteem, and that kids under 13 are too young to fully understand what content is inappropriate and the long-lasting repercussions of their online behavior.
The officials also said an Instagram for kids could present privacy concerns and become an oasis for cyberbullies and sexual predators.
Facebook and Instagram currently require users to be at least 13 years old to register.
Testifying in March before two subcommittees of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg acknowledged that many children have lied about their age to gain access to his company’s platforms. He also said in defense of the plan that “the research we've seen is that using social apps to connect to other people can have health benefits.”
The attorneys generals rejected that notion, writing that the research and data they cited “directly contradict your statements.” They also argued that “Facebook has historically failed to protect the welfare of children on its platforms.”
In a statement to Spectrum News on Monday, a Facebook spokesperson reiterated Zuckerberg’s assertion that children already are on social media and said Facebook wants to develop a way to give parents visibility and control of their kids’ online activity.
“We are developing these experiences in consultation with experts in child development, child safety and mental health, and privacy advocates,” the spokesperson said. “We also look forward to working with legislators and regulators, including the nation’s attorneys general.”
Facebook added that it is committing to not showing ads on an Instagram service for children.
The attorneys general who signed the letter included those representing the states of California, Kentucky, Michigan, North Carolina, New York, Ohio, Texas and Wisconsin.
Their letter was not the first formal pushback Facebook has received about an Instagram for ages 12 and under. Last month, an international coalition of 35 children’s and consumer groups wrote a letter also urging the company to abandon the plan.
Among their arguments are that children 10 to 12 years old would be unlikely to migrate to a “babyish” version of Instagram and that the new platform “will likely increase the use of Instagram by young children who are particularly vulnerable to the platform’s manipulative and exploitative features.”