Facebook is considering a version of Instagram for children under 13 – but a pediatrician and parenting advocate is voicing serious reservations about the plan.
Instagram wants to focus on kids. In fact, according to its vice president of product, the platform will be "building a new youth pillar" within one of its groups. Though a leaked internal document obtained by Buzzfeed News says the project is still in a development phase, a Facebook official says they're trying to develop a platform that is controlled by parents and has strong age verification.
"We … focus on two things," said the official. "Accelerating our integrity and privacy work to ensure the safest possible experience for teens, and building a version of Instagram that allows people under the age of 13 to safely use Instagram for the first time."
One News Now spoke with pediatrician Dr. Rosemary Stein, who contends there's really no way to protect children online from those who would do them harm.
"I have so many concerns, I really don't know where to stop. This is really not a good idea," she begins. "How do you filter people who aren't supposed to be on there? You can say you're anybody; you can say you're another child; you can use somebody else's identity to be a predator."
As for parental controls, "Dr. Rose," as she's known, acknowledges that might work to a degree with parents who are engaged with their kids, but there are a lot of moms and dads who aren't. In addition, she says, a child's brain isn't capable of handling social media.
"This is causing instant addiction," she tells One News Now. "Children are acting out, they think that the virtual world is the real world, they can't distinguish the difference between a friend on one of their social media platforms with making friends and talking to people eye to eye."
She urges parents to speak up: "We need to communicate to Facebook that this is not alright. We need to tell them, 'If you're going to do this stuff, I'm going to stop subscribing to you. I'm going to make sure that I don't advertise with you. I'm going to say no [to my child].'"
In 2017 Facebook launched Messenger Kids, a product aimed at children 6 to 12 years of age who had the permission of their parents to use the app. But in 2019, The Verge reported that "a design flaw allowed users [of Messenger Kids] to sidestep that protection through the group chat system, allowing children to enter group chats with unapproved strangers."