NEW YORK — On Tuesday, a coalition of child advocacy groups called on Facebook to just say no to a planned Instagram for kids under 13 years of age.
Campaign for A Commercial Free Childhood was one of those groups who presented the petition to the company before its annual shareholders meeting on Tuesday.
“We know social media is incredibly powerful and the way it’s designed can really affect all of our behavior says Josh Golin, executive director of CCFC. “And so, the younger you get, those techniques and those design choices they make will be even more powerful.”
Instagram doesn’t formally allow users under the age of 13 onto the platform, but without strict age verification some younger users still have accounts.
Golin thinks the company isn’t doing enough to shut those accounts down now.
“This is about getting kids hooked on Instagram plain and simple,” says Golin.
Earlier this month, a group of 44 attorneys general across the country, wrote a letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg urging him to drop plans for a version of Instagram for children under the age of 13 calling it, ‘harmful for a myriad of reasons.”
In a statement released at that time, New York Attorney General Letitia James stated, “There are far too man concerns to let Facebook move forward with this ill-conceived idea, which is why we are calling on the company to abandon launch of Instagram Kids.”
Days later, an angry group of democratic lawmakers led by Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass) took it even further writing a letter to Facebook.
“Facebook has a clear record of failing to protect children on its platforms,” Markey wrote. “When it comes to putting people before profits, Facebook has forfeited the benefit of the doubt, and we strongly urge Facebook to abandon its plans to launch a version of Instagram for kids.”
For its part, Facebook promises to prioritize safety and privacy, as well as consult with experts in child safety and children’s mental health.
Child psychologist and author of the book, “Kid Confidence” Eileen Kennedy-Moore says they’re already using experts.
“They have teams of psychologists using their powers for evil to get the kids hooked, to keep them on,” Kennedy-Moore says.
She uses a metaphor when it comes to the emotional and developmental minefield adolescents already walk through, even with out social media. She says we should think of how mean a middle school lunchroom can be.
“I mean, that is fraught for kids,” she says. “Questions like where am I going to sit? Who’s going to sit with me? Am I in this group or that group? I don’t think this is a good idea for the kids to be navigating those normal but challenge issues in public, in a broader arena.”