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Mark Zuckerberg urged to ditch Instagram for kids plan

A letter signed by 99 groups and individuals says that it would put young users at great risk.

An advocacy group has urged Mark Zuckerberg, co-founder, Facebook, to cancel his plans for an Instagram for kids under 13 years of age. Facebook is the owner of Instagram.

The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC) said, in a letter to Zuckerberg, “… launching a version of Instagram for children under 13 is not the right remedy and would put young users at great risk.”

The CCFC, as per its website, is a non-profit organisation committed to helping children thrive in an increasingly commercialised, screen-obsessed culture. It is the only organisation dedicated to ending marketing to children.

The news of an Instagram for children first broke on BuzzFeed on March 18, 2021. Vishal Shah, Instagram’s vice president of product, wrote on an employee message board (as per the BuzzFeed report), “I’m excited to announce that going forward, we have identified youth work as a priority for Instagram and have added it to our H1 priority list.”

“We will be building a new youth pillar within the Community Product Group to focus on two things. First, accelerating our integrity and privacy work to ensure the safest possible experience for teens. And second, building a version of Instagram that allows people under the age of 13 to safely use it for the first time.”

In its letter to Zuckerberg, the CCFC said that Instagram exploits young people’s fear of missing out and desire for peer approval to encourage them to constantly check their devices and share photos with their followers.

“The platform’s relentless focus on appearance, self-presentation and branding presents challenges to adolescents’ privacy and well-being.”

The letter also warned that children between the ages of 10 and 12, who currently have Instagram accounts, are unlikely to migrate to a “babyish” version of the platform after they have experienced the real thing.

It remarked, “While collecting valuable family data and cultivating a new generation of Instagram users may be good for Facebook’s bottom line, it will likely increase the use of Instagram by young children, who are particularly vulnerable to the platform’s manipulative and exploitative features."

"We're working on new age verification methods to keep under-13s off Instagram, and have just started exploring an Instagram experience for kids that is age-appropriate and managed by parents," Facebook told the BBC.

"We agree that any experience we develop must prioritise their safety and privacy, and we will consult with experts in child development, child safety and mental health, and privacy advocates to inform it. We also won't show ads in any Instagram experience we develop for people under the age of 13."

You can read CCFC’s letter to Zuckerberg here.

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Photo by Solen Feyissa on Unsplash