Attorneys general for 44 states and jurisdictions called on Facebook to halt plans to create a version of Instagram for young children, citing concerns over mental and emotional well-being, exposure to online predators and cyberbullying.
In a letter on Monday to Facebook’s chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, the prosecutors warned that social media can be harmful to children and that the company had a poor record of protecting children online. Facebook, which bought the photo-sharing app Instagram in 2012, currently has a minimum age requirement of 13 to use its products. According to federal children’s privacy rules, companies must ask parents for permission to collect data on users younger than 13.
The law enforcement officials pointed to research showing how the use of social media, including Instagram, has led to an increase in mental distress, body image concerns and even suicidal thoughts. A children’s version of Instagram doesn’t fill a need beyond the company’s commercial ambitions, the officials said in the letter.
“Without a doubt, this is a dangerous idea that risks the safety of our children and puts them directly in harm’s way,” Letitia James, New York’s attorney general, said in a statement. “There are too many concerns to let Facebook move forward with this ill-conceived idea, which is why we are calling on the company to abandon its launch of Instagram Kids.”
Facebook defended its plans, saying its development of a children’s version of Instagram would have safety and privacy in mind. It wouldn’t show ads on the app, the company vowed.
“As every parent knows, kids are already online,” Andy Stone, a Facebook spokesman, said in a statement. “We want to improve this situation by delivering experiences that give parents visibility and control over what their kids are doing.”