Washington, D.C. — The National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG) is urging Facebook to abandon its plans to launch a version of Instagram for children under the age of 13, citing concerns about the safety and well-being of children and the harm social media poses to young people.
In a letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, the bipartisan coalition of 44 of state and territory attorneys general contends that social media can be detrimental to children for myriad reasons and that Facebook has historically failed to protect the welfare of children on its platforms. For instance, Facebook’s Messenger Kids app contained a glitch that allowed children to circumvent restrictions and join group chats with strangers.
“It appears that Facebook is not responding to a need, but instead creating one, as this platform appeals primarily to children who otherwise do not or would not have an Instagram account. In short, an Instagram platform for young children is harmful for myriad reasons. The attorneys general urge Facebook to abandon its plans to launch this new platform,” reads the letter.
In their letter, the attorneys general express various concerns over Facebook’s proposal, including:
- Research that social media can be harmful to the physical, emotional, and mental well-being of children.
- Rapidly worsening concerns about cyberbullying on Instagram.
- The use of the platform by predators to target children.
- Facebook’s checkered record in protecting the welfare of children on its platforms.
- Children’s lack of capacity to navigate the complexities of what they encounter online, including advertising, inappropriate content, and relationships with strangers.
One report found an increase of 200% in recorded instances in the use of Instagram to target and abuse children over a six-month period in 2018. In 2020 alone, Facebook and Instagram reported 20 million child sexual abuse images.
Cyberbullying is also a major concern. A 2017 survey found that 42% of young Instagram users had experienced cyberbullying on the platform, the highest percentage of any platform measured. As children spend more time online during the COVID-19 pandemic, these issues have likely been exacerbated.
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