Parents have been warned that a proposed “Instagram for children” poses a wealth of concerns, with global health advocates demanding Facebook’s boss scrap the plans.
Campaign for a Commercial-free Childhood wrote a letter to Mark Zuckerberg, claiming the “image-obsessed” platform is dangerous for children‘s health and privacy.
Last month it was revealed Facebook had plans to create an Instagram for children platform, which would allow anyone younger than 13 to have an account. But it must be managed by parents.
Users must be older than 13 to use the existing platform, but advocates warn there’s nothing stopping kids from lying about their age.
“The current version of Instagram is not safe for children under 13 and something must be done to protect the millions of children who have lied about their age to create Instagram accounts,” a letter from the group read.
“Launching a version of Instagram for children under 13 is not the right remedy and would put young users at great risk.”
The group is concerned the platform would “exploit” an important period of growth for children who experience changes to their social competencies, abstract thinking, and sense of self during their early school years.
“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 group argues.
“The platform’s relentless focus on appearance, self-presentation, and branding presents challenges to adolescents’ privacy and wellbeing.”
Facebook is under growing pressure to find ways to stop the under 13s joining Instagram, with advocates arguing the real target of Instagram for kids will be much younger children.
They said this was because kids were likely to abandon the real site for something more “babyish”.
According to the group, it could also create an unhealthy attachment to social media where children sought validation from others on their appearance alone.
“The platform encourages users to upload videos and photos to receive likes and comments from other users – this can lead young people to obsessively check Instagram for reactions to their posts,” they wrote.
“Children and teens (especially young girls) have learned to associate overly sexualised, highly edited photos of themselves with more attention on the platform and popularity among their peers.”
The letter draws on several global studies and reports form experts, including those at the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM).
Earlier, Facebook spokeswoman Stephanie Otway told the New York Times that Instagram was in the early stages of developing the service in a bid to keep kids younger than 13 off the platform.
“The reality is that kids are online,” Ms Otway said.
“They want to connect with their family and friends, have fun and learn, and we want to help them do that in a way that is safe and age-appropriate.”
The eSafety Commissioner told NCA NewsWire that any app for children would need to have high levels of safety assurances, like security settings and parental controls.
“Apps tailored for kids are not new, but we need to also think about their intent and impact,” Julie Inman Grant said.
“If the right safety protections are embedded, and parents are engaged throughout, this could help build children’s confidence, resilience and judgment in navigating the online world.”
The ACCM have been contacted for comment.