Attorneys general from 44 states called on social media titan Facebook to back away from plans to launch a version of the social media platform Instagram which is designed for children under the age of 13.
The call, which came in the form of an open letter, signed by the 44 attorneys general and addressed to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, urged him to abandon the planned new version of Instagram over the concerns it would have a negative impact on the mental health and safety of children.
“Use of social media can be detrimental to the health and well-being of children, who are not equipped to navigate the challenges of having a social media account,” the letter said. “Further, Facebook has historically failed to protect the welfare of children on its platforms. The attorneys general have an interest in protecting our youngest citizens, and Facebook’s plans to create a platform where kids under the age of 13 are encouraged to share content online is contrary to that interest.”
The letter follows a similar call from the Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood, a Boston-based nonprofit representing a coalition of child safety groups and experts, who decried Facebook’s plan.
“Instagram, in particular, exploits young people’s fear of missing out and desire for peer approval to encourage children and teens to constantly check their devices and share photos with their followers,” the letter Campaign’s letter said. “The platform’s relentless focus on appearance, self-presentation, and branding presents challenges to adolescents’ privacy and wellbeing.”
Facebook countered the criticism by suggesting that the child-facing service would expand parents’ control over their children’s online activity and pledged to keep advertising away from children under the age of 13.
“As every parent knows, kids are already online. We want to improve this situation by delivering experiences that give parents visibility and control over what their kids are doing,” a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement provided to CNN Business. “We are developing these experiences in consultation with experts in child development, child safety and mental health, and privacy advocates. We also look forward to working with legislators and regulators, including the nation’s attorneys general. In addition, we commit today to not showing ads in any Instagram experience we develop for people under the age of 13.”