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IN THE NEWS THIS WEEK: Instagram for kids? What the Zuck!

Earlier this year, Facebook announced plans to build a modified version of Instagram aimed at children < 13 years old. Millions of parents were outraged at this, and they’re not the only ones. US attorneys general from across 44 states and territories have come together to urge the social media giant to abandon the plans.

On Monday, the officials wrote a letter addressed to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg citing extensive research that confirms the serious detrimental effects social media has had on the mental wellbeing of kids. They collectively believe that young kids “are not equipped to handle the range of challenges that come with having an Instagram account.” The challenges referred to include cyber bullying and navigating appropriate vs. inappropriate content, with proven consequences such as low self-esteem, suicidal ideation and exposure to child sex abuse images.

As serious as this is, it seems the two parties are fighting for the same cause with seriously differing approaches. Instagram currently has an age limit of 13 and the Facebook team have identified that many children younger than this lie about their age to access the platform. Nothing new for parents, kids often lie about their online activity and putt themselves at the mercy of the merciless internet without parental oversight. The Facebook team believe that they can “improve this situation by delivering experiences that give parents visibility and control over what their kids are doing”. Like that will stop them…

As a PR agency that has a large focus on social media and influencers, we know how real these risks are. Whilst we can understand Facebook’s intent by allowing kids on Instagram, it may better allow the platform and the children’s parents to better regulate what they’re viewing and who they’re socialising with. Although, the proven risks to mental health are too evident to outweigh the potential benefit to the next generation – and that’s only if all goes to plan. The social media world is ever evolving, and who knows what platform will be next to grasp their attention.

By Michael Fitness – PR and Influencer Coordinator at InsideOut PR and #AsSeenON

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