Attorneys-general for 44 states and jurisdictions urged Facebook to end plans to create a version of Instagram for young children, citing concerns about mental and emotional well-being, exposure to online predators, and cyberbullying.
In a letter on Monday to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, prosecutors warned that social media can be harmful to children and that the company is poorly informed about protecting children online. Facebook, which bought Instagram in 2012, must currently be at least 13 years old to use its products. According to federal data protection regulations for children, companies must ask parents for permission to collect information on users under the age of 13.
Police officers pointed to research showing how use of social media, including the Instagram photo-sharing app, has led to increases in mental distress, body image concerns and even suicidal thoughts. A children’s version of Instagram does not meet any need beyond the company’s commercial ambitions, officials said in the letter.
“Without a doubt, this is a dangerous idea that threatens the safety of our children and puts them directly at risk,” New York attorney general Letitia James said in a statement. “There are too many concerns to let Facebook push this ill-conceived idea. So we’re calling on the company to stop rolling out Instagram Kids.”
Facebook defended its plans and dug its heels. Developing a kids version of Instagram would take security and privacy into account. The company vowed that there would be no ads in the app.
“As every parent knows, kids are already online,” said Andy Stone, a Facebook spokesman, in a statement. “We want to improve this situation by providing experiences that give parents visibility and control over what their children are doing.”