Most parents would cringe at the thought of their non-teenager kids accessing social media networks like Instagram.
And for good reasons.
Statistics show that 6 in 10 kids have witnessed social media harassment, with nearly half of it occurring on Insta. In addition, almost 70% of kids that have gone through digital bullying end up with mental health issues.
With 41% of teens already feeling overwhelmed by the number of notifications they receive on their smartphones, kids under 13 do not need this form of mental overload.
But Facebook feels that it’s perfectly fine to launch a version specifically for them.
A bit of the backstory:
In a March 2021 internal post, Instagram’s product Vice President Vishal Shah said that the company would be developing a version for people (not children?) aged 13 and below.
In a short interview, the photo-sharing app’s Head, Adam Mosseri, said that it was impossible to verify the age of users on the platform. He also added that IG was aware that underage kids wanted to use the app.
He then added that the organization would create a product for young users that would give parents more control.
Strange, bearing in mind that Facebook hasn’t succeeded in protecting younger users.
There are a lot of lingering questions regarding the move:
- If Instagram can’t verify the age of those joining their network, how will it stop predators and other creeps from entering the under-13 platform?
- Does the company plan on monetizing our kids?
- How will Insta stop the migration of clueless children to the main platform where they might come across inappropriate content? We’ve already seen that happening on YouTube.
Even lawmakers aren’t thrilled about Instagram’s latest endeavor.
On 10th May 2021, 44 attorneys addressed their concerns for the mental health of those 13 years and below in a letter to Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s CEO. As you may know, FB acquired IG in 2021.
They asked him to reconsider the plans to introduce younger users on the social media platform.
That’s not all:
In April 2021, an international group of public health and child safety advocates urged the social media giant to abandon its plans to target children under 13. They cited mental health, screen time, privacy, commercial pressure, and self-esteem concerns for the age group.
They further added that young kids aren’t equipped to deal with social media challenges. There’s pressure to fit in, inappropriate content, bullying, name it.
It’s fantastic to see that lawmakers and child experts have come together to challenge Instagram.
If you want to protect your kids from social media ills (access to pornography, cyberbullying, internet scams, etc.), you can use parental control software like Qustodio or Bark. Most solutions will allow you to block sites that you don’t want your child to visit and send you screenshots of their interactions online, amongst other things.