Should Facebook Scrap Instagram for Kids? Child Safety Experts and Lawmakers Weigh In | July 2021
Leaders at Facebook-owned Instagram have confirmed that a children’s version of the photo-sharing app is underway. The app would join Messenger Kids in Facebook’s suite of apps for children.
In a tweet, Adam Mosseri, head of Instagram, said there is demand for a kid-friendly version of the Instagram app. According to the company, children want to keep up with their friends and discover new hobbies and interests. The company is exploring its ability to meet this demand with a parent-controlled experience.
Privacy and Safety Concerns
Children’s online privacy and safety are major issues Facebook must tackle with its apps for children. The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Rule (COPPA) is designed to protect children under 13 and control how companies collect information from children. The Federal Trade Commission has fined Google and TikTok for improperly handling the data of children in the past.
Facebook experienced safety issues with its child-friendly Messenger Kids product, an ad-free version of its messaging platform for kids ages 6 to 12. A bug temporarily allowed children to join unauthorized chats with strangers. Children’s health advocates have criticized the platform and urged Facebook to shut it down.
Critics of Instagram for Kids
Many have lost trust in Facebook where privacy protection is concerned. State senators and representatives have suggested Facebook pump the breaks on Instagram for kids before it launches. A statement from lawmakers said, “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.”
Social responsibility, as defined in Business Foundations Chapter 2: Business Ethics and Social Responsibility is a business’s obligation to maximize its positive impact and minimize its negative impact on society. Lawmakers suggest that Facebook’s previous actions have led them to believe the company cannot be trusted to properly handle child safety and privacy. Child safety experts are also concerned that a platform such as this could be detrimental to mental health and self-esteem.
Facebook on the Defense
Tech companies such as Facebook struggle to keep children off of their social networks. Children can easily join by lying about their age. Facebook says a parent-controlled platform would help redirect kids under 13 to a safer experience. The app would be ad-free and parents would be able to monitor their child’s activity.
Though it’s unclear when Facebook would launch the children’s version of Instagram, Facebook has said it will work with regulators and lawmakers. The company says the app is being designed with input from child development, mental health experts, and privacy advocates to create a safe, age-appropriate environment.
In the Classroom
This article can be used to highlight ethical business decisions and the social responsibility of business, discussed in Chapter 2: Business Ethics and Social Responsibility. This article could also be used to support Chapter 11: Customer-Driven Marketing in a conversation about target markets and Chapter 13: Digital Marketing and Social Media in a conversation about legal and social issues in internet marketing.
- Why are child safety experts concerned about Instagram for children?
- Do you think Facebook should scrap plans for its Instagram for children? Why?
- Do you think it is ethical to launch a social media platform for children under 13?
This article was developed with the support of Kelsey Reddick for and under the direction of O.C. Ferrell and Linda Ferrell.
Kim Lyons, "Facebook Is Working on a Version of Instagram for Kids Under 13," The Verge, March 18, 2021, https://www.theverge.com/2021/3/18/22338911/facebook-instagram-kids-privacy-coppa
Matt Grossman, "States Urge Facebook to Abandon Plan for Children’s Instagram," The Wall Street Journal, May 10, 2021, https://www.wsj.com/articles/state-prosecutors-add-to-warnings-about-instagrams-child-safety-plans-11620662601
Rebecca Heilweil, "Seems Like Everyone Hates Instagram for Kids," Vox, May 18, 2021, https://www.vox.com/recode/22385570/instagram-for-kids-youtube-facebook-messenger