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Image / Self / Parenthood

Facebook is planning a version of Instagram targeting children under the age of 13


by Amanda Cassidy
19th Mar 2021
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Social media companies say they have our children's safety at heart. Amanda Cassidy begs to differ.

“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,” the leaked memo from Instagram’s VP of product wrote in a document obtained by BuzzFeed News.

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

But not everyone is happy that their pre-teens will be spilling their data onto the Facebook-owned app with some social media users calling it “dangerous”.

Data

“Every child born is a bag of unharvested data,” HyperNormalti wrote on Twitter. “Very bad idea,” wrote another commenter about the app that plans to specifically target children under the age of 13.

The company has also underlined its emphasis on making apps such as this safer for children and promised to do more to protect vulnerable online users.

But cynics point out that in creating apps build user bases at a young age that will become dedicated members – and viewers of their advertising – of platforms years to come, privacy-issues and mental health problems are not straightforward.

The photo-sharing app was the epitome of cool when it launched in 2010 and for better or worse, nobody flocks to cool like young people.

Dangerous

But with all that freedom to share information also comes a host of safety issues, including mean behavior, inappropriate content, and a glorification of perfection.

It also sparks fears of more opportunities for cyberbullying to take place. A recent study found that 64 percent of adults under the age of 30 have been subjected to online harassment.

So why would any parent allow their children to access such an App?

Dr Anderson of the Child Mind Institute collaborated with Instagram to create a Parent’s guide to keep children safe online. He says that Instagram “can provide young people the opportunity to strengthen connections, practice social skills and find supportive communities.”

But as a parent of three, I’m not buying it. And certainly not for children under 13. Their supportive communities are in school, at home, the boy up the street who he can cycle to…it isn’t sitting glued to a screen looking at other children living their lives.

Real-world learning

They can strengthen their connections with a football on the green outside. The way of the world may be changing but just because something is pervasive doesn’t mean it is right. When I limit screens in our house, between the sighs I can see something else, relief.

Children are meant to play. Not to stare at screens, no matter how entertaining they may be. As safe as the social media companies are making them, the idea of a 9 or 11-year-old with their head stuck into a screen craving someone else’s experience makes me sad.

You can’t learn limitations, boundaries, mistakes as easily as in person. Online mistakes don’t get forgotten. I’m not against allowing my children time to play some of their games with their friends or to watch age-appropriate things on YouTube but the idea of having them signed up to a social media account, to me is daft.

So while the world squeezes our children towards more and more screen-based activities, I’ll be the horrible mom that always says no. But ten minutes after I hide the Ipads, I hear the whoops and giggles of games and outdoor play and I know I’m doing the right thing – for as long as I can get away with it