Facebook announced it was planning on making a kid’s version of Instagram for kids under 13, in early 2021. In September, Facebook announced they would pause their plans.
The reason for creating a new app is based around safety for younger users.
Instead of creating a separate app for minors, Facebook, now known as Meta, should have better protections for minors on already existing apps. A new app, and a new name, won’t solve the issues that affect minors on existing social media.
The truth is most teens use some form of social media whether they are age restricted or not. Some may say this is the reason a kid’s version of these social media sites should be implemented.
According to a report by The Washington Post, 33 per cent of teenage girls feel worse about their body image.
Making Instagram more accessible for kids won’t help that issue.
Kids are already joining apps like TikTok and Snapchat which are visual apps. Instagram’s internal research, which was not released to the public but obtained by news outlets, knows what impact the app has on teens but still Facebook looks for a younger audience.
Social media targeting kids who are going through crucial developmental years isn’t a great idea. Kids under 13 engage in online social interactions and not in real life is harmful to their mental health.
According to Scholastic, preteen years are when children start to develop self conscious behaviour such as caring what their peers think. Exposing them to the possibility of cyberbullying and minimizing their in-person interactions can warp their sense of self.
It has been shown excessive social media use can lead to social isolation: a gateway to a host of mental problems including anxiety and depression.
Kid who learn about appropriate social interactions and responses should be able to have in-person experiences like most human beings. Social media has been around for some decades now but it has never been as prevalent as it is today.
During this pandemic, social media use was on the rise because kids were at home for much of the year due to online schooling that took place over extended periods of time or through hybrid class schedules.
It’s not far-fetched to assume that children were a part of that rise in usage.
A major problem with targeting youth for social media is that there is an isolation of a certain age group that is targeted for sexual harassment and other forms of abuse. “31 per cent of teenage girls have been targeted with unwanted sexual behavior,” according to a Childnet study.
This includes threats of sexual assault, revenge porn, blackmailing and pressure to share nude pictures. Kids are susceptible to sexual crimes because they don’t know any better.
The problem is social media usage has detrimental effects. While it does hold some positives, such as being able to stay in touch with people, the negatives such as harm to physical and mental safety are life threatening.
Social media sites need to stop capitalizing on kids and focus instead on making existing sites safer. This starts with government regulation to make social media sites less powerful.