Facebook has confirmed plans to create an Instagram for kids ages 6-12. We don’t have all the details yet, but we definitely see at least 3 red flags!
Instagram for kids is not developmentally age-appropriate
Social media is the last thing young kids and their growing brains need. While it’s an awesome tool with many benefits, we’ve got to consider all the negative outcomes. Can kids--with their underdeveloped brains-- really deal with the harms of social media use? Here are just a few downsides research has associated with using social media:
- Increased depression & anxiety
- Disrupted sleep
- FOMO (Fear of Missing Out)
- Negative body image
- Screen addiction
- Decreased empathy
The sources for these studies include:
- Social Media and Adolescents’ and Young Adults’ Mental Health from National Center for Health Research, and
- The Impact of Social Media on Children, Adolescents, and Families by the American Academy of Pediatrics.
The bottom line is that healthy social media use requires a higher level of thinking in order to avoid falling prey to these harmful outcomes.
Social media is difficult even for adults to navigate, let alone the developing brain of a child. For these reasons, we’ve always suggested that social media use is not a good idea for middle schoolers and even recommend delaying social media use until the older teen years.
Note: Social media will only increase screen time. One thing we know for sure is that kids DON’T need more screen time. The CDC reports that kids ages 8-10 spend on average six hours per day on screens and for kids ages 11 to 14, that goes up to 9 hours a day. The numerous detrimental effects of all this screen time have been proven in scientific studies.
The Netflix documentary The Social Dilemma illustrates how social media is specifically designed to keep the user on for as long as possible and to keep them coming back for more. So we have no doubt that kids on Instagram would lead to increased screen time.
We’re skeptical about Instagram for Kids being safe
Because of the COPPA (Children's Online Privacy Protection Act), social media companies are not allowed to have children under 13 on their platforms. But many kids lie about their age to sign up for accounts, and we don’t see any real safeguards to keep kids under 13 off Instagram.
Here’s the million dollar question: If they can’t keep kids under 13 off Instagram now, what makes them think they can keep adults posing as kids off Instagram for Kids?? Sounds like a predator’s playground to us.
We’re also interested to see how they’ll keep things like cyberbullying, sending nudes, dangerous challenges, and inappropriate material (like porn) off the platform.
Perhaps parental oversight tools will deter or eliminate these dangers, but we’re a bit skeptical.
Instagram for Kids will monetize our kids and steal their privacy
Facebook explained that they’re creating this app for kids under 13 "…to enable them to keep up with family and friends in a safe and ad-free environment." While Facebook says this app is not about their bottom line, we all know they wouldn’t be creating an app if they didn’t think it would boost profits.
Even though it will be ad-free and managed by parents, they’ll still collect big data. And information is money. For example, Facebook’s Messenger Kids is managed by parents and ad-free, but “...it still collects useful information such as children’s images, voices, time zones, birthdays and genders. It knows with whom children speak most frequently and has access to their cameras, photos, and microphones, if enabled.” They use that information to improve and develop other Facebook products. It’s expected Instagram for Kids will be set up in the same way.
“Facebook poses one of the biggest threats when it comes to children’s privacy. Increasing safeguards for children online is paramount, but the fact remains that Facebook will be harvesting children’s data and profiting off their detailed profiles."
Rasha Abdul-Rahim, co-director of Amnesty Tech (U.S. News)
The Social Dilemma points out that if you’re not paying for a product then YOU are the product. Social media platforms make their money by selling your attention. Instagram for kids is just another way for Facebook to expand its user base and condition children into using its products so it can make money off of them later.
In the end, we see more harmful than healthy outcomes for kids under 13 on social media. We urge parents to carefully and intentionally consider whether the positives outweigh the negatives for their own children.