At least 40 US state attorneys general have urged Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to abandon plans to develop an Instagram version for kids under 13 years of age.
“Use of social media can be detrimental to the health and well-being of children, who are not equipped to navigate the challenges of having a social media account,” the officials said in a letter.
“Further, Facebook has historically failed to protect the welfare of children on its platforms,” they said.
Facebook had said through a spokesperson that it “just started exploring a version of Instagram for kids” with a commitment “to not showing ads in any Instagram experience we develop for people under the age of 13”.
Facebook said it agreed that the kids version of Instagram “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”.
Among the attorneys general who signed the letter include those from New York, Texas, California, Massachusetts, Nebraska, Michigan, Ohio, Utah, Vermont, Kentucky, and others.
“It appears that Facebook is not responding to a need, but instead creating one”. They said.
Instagram Head, Adam Mosseri earlier confirmed that the app was in development. He said that the company is aware that a number of kids want to use Instagram.
“Right now there aren’t many options for parents, so we’re working on building additional products — like we did with Messenger Kids — that are suitable for kids, managed by parents. We’re exploring bringing a parent-controlled experience to Instagram to help kids keep up with their friends, discover new hobbies and interests, and more.” He told Buzzfeed at the time.
Online products for children come with a lot of responsibility and legal issues. In 2019, Google was fined $170 million for tracking children’s viewing history on YouTube and displaying targeted ads. TikTok was also fined $5.7 million for violating the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) in 2019.
Facebook launched an ad free Messenger for kids in 2019 for kids between six and twelve years old.