Kids using smartphones and looking at social media

Explainers

Instagram for Kids Is a Terrible Idea

April 22nd, 2021

Facebook recently announced it’s developing a version of Instagram for kids under 13. It is a terrible idea. Let us count the ways.

  1. Kids don’t benefit from staring at a phone and scrolling away the hours. Research shows increased screen time by young people leads to a wide range of behavioral problems.
  2. Time spent on a phone is time not spent playing, running around, building things—being a kid. Let’s let our kids be kids.
  3. Facebook, which owns Instagram, has said its new version of the photo-sharing app won’t show any adds. Great! But if 9-year-olds are using phones to check their Instagram feeds, they’ll be in close contact with other apps, too. Will they not show any ads, either? More to the point, Instagram’s “adult” version, open to people over 13 years of age, is full of ads. Welcoming young kids to Instagram simply primes them to digest the ads they’ll encounter later. It’s a terrible idea.
  4. What about privacy? As University of Maryland researcher Priya Kumar told BuzzFeed, “From a privacy perspective, you’re just legitimizing children’s interactions being monetized in the same way that all of the adults using these platforms are.”
  5. Trusted advocates for online safety and digital privacy have joined together to call on Facebook to scrap its plans for an Instagram for kids. What does that tell you? In a letter to Facebook, the group wrote, “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.”
  6. That letter is full of strong arguments against encouraging ever younger children to use Instagram. Here’s one: “Research has found that Instagram in particular poses a number of serious challenges to young people’s wellbeing. The Royal Society for Public Health rated Instagram as the worst social media platform for youth mental health.”
  7. See? It’s a terrible idea.

Instagram, no matter how it’s redesigned, is not a healthy place for our kids. There are plenty of activities we should be helping our kids enjoy. Posting, liking and scrolling are not among them.

Instagram for kids isn’t really for kids at all. It’s for Facebook and Instagram. And it’s a terrible idea.

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