UPDATE 11/05: A group of 44 State Attorneys General have called upon Facebook to abandon its Instagram for Kids project, a new Instagram-like app that would have allowed children under the age of 13 to use it. These AGs have argued that building a platform specifically targeted to children has the potential to make cyberbullying issues worse amongst this demographic.
Attorney General Letitia James of New York says, "Without a doubt, this is a dangerous idea that risks the safety of our children and puts them directly in harm’s way. Not only is social media an influential tool that can be detrimental to children who are not of appropriate age, but this plan could place children directly in the paths of predators. There are too many concerns to let Facebook move forward with this ill-conceived idea, which is why we are calling on the company to abandon its launch of Instagram Kids. We must continue to ensure the health and wellness of our next generation and beyond."
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ORIGINAL STORY: An internal company report at Facebook has indicated that the social media company is set to build a version of Instagram specifically for children. This is apparently part of a larger plan for Facebook, which has identified that it needs to do more to protect its younger users.
While Instagram's official policy prohibits anyone under the age of 13 using the app, the reality is that many children lie about their age in order to use the platform. Ensuring the safety of children using Instagram has clearly become an important issue for the company, as Instagram has also recently introduced new policies designed to limit interactions between teenagers and adults.
These policies include (opens in new tab) "safety prompts" that will be shown to teenagers when the message adults who have been "exhibiting potentially suspicious behavior". These prompts will give teenage users the option to report or block adults that are messaging them and will remind them not to feel pressured to respond to the messages.
However, it seems that Facebook wants to go another step further in its plans to protect younger children. Buzzfeed recently obtained (opens in new tab) an internal company post from Facebook that discusses plans for an entirely new Instagram platform for children.
In this message, Vishal Shah, Instagram's Vice President of Product, says, "I’m excited to announce that going forward, we have identified youth work as a priority for Instagram and have added it to our H1 priority list. We will be building a new youth pillar within the Community Product Group to focus on two things: (a) accelerating our integrity and privacy work to ensure the safest possible experience for teens and (b) building a version of Instagram that allows people under the age of 13 to safely use Instagram for the first time."
Apparently, Facebook is planning to have this new project overseen by Head of Instagram Adam Mosseri and Pavni Diwanji, a former Google employee who oversaw YouTube Kids.
Many parents will likely be pleased to hear that Facebook is focusing on making the Instagram platform safer for children. However, it seems that this project is still in the early stages, so we're not likely to see this new platform launch any time soon.