A letter from the Campaign for a Commercial-free Childhood claims Instagram is an “image-obsessed” platform, and is dangerous for children’s health and privacy, according to the BBC.
The letter, signed by 99 groups and individuals, points out that those under the age of 13 with existing Instagram accounts are unlikely to “abandon it for a new site that seems babyish.”
“The real target of Instagram for kids will be much younger children,” it read, “in short, an Instagram site for kids will subject young children to a number of serious risks and will offer few benefits for families.
Josh Golin, executive director for Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood said: “Instagram’s business model relies on extensive data collection, maximizing time on devices, promoting a culture of over-sharing and idolizing influencers, as well as a relentless focus on often altered physical appearance. It is certainly not appropriate for seven-year-olds.”
Kathryn Montgomery, senior strategist at the US digital rights group Center for Digital Democracy, said: “The company’s real goal is to expand its lucrative and highly profitable Instagram franchise to an even younger demographic, introducing children to a powerful commercialized social media environment that poses serious threats to their privacy, health and wellbeing.”
The letter cites research from The Royal Society for Public Health which rated Instagram as the worst social media platform for youth mental health. The report claims Instagram is linked to an increased risk of eating disorders, cyber-bullying, and sexual grooming.
As recently as this week, Instagram was forced to apologize after a “mistake” promoting “appetite suppressant” to users with eating disorders.
The letter continues on to say “Instagram’s focus on photo-sharing and appearance makes the platform particularly unsuitable for children who are in the midst of crucial stages of developing their sense of self. Children and teens (especially young girls) have learned to associate overly sexualized, highly edited photos of themselves with more attention on the platform, and popularity among their peers.”
Plans for a version of Instagram for children 13-and-under have been debated recently. Per the outlet, many social media platforms are under growing pressure to find ways to stop children under 13 from joining, but children can easily bypass that by lying about their age.
Facebook (which owns Instagram) said that the under-13 version would be “managed by parents. Kids are already online, and want to connect with their family and friends, have fun, and learn. We want to help them do that in a safe and age-appropriate way, and find practical solutions to the ongoing industry problem of kids lying about their age to access apps.”
The statement went on to say “We’re working on new age verification methods to keep under-13s off Instagram, and have just started exploring an Instagram experience for kids that is age-appropriate and managed by parents. We agree that any experience we develop must prioritize their safety and privacy, and we will consult with experts in child development, child safety and mental health, and privacy advocates to inform it. We also won’t show ads in any Instagram experience we develop for people under the age of 13.”