Facebook is planning to launch an Instagram product for children under the age of 13, raising concerns about the potential impact on young people of early access to the social media platform.
A spokesman for Facebook said the social media company wanted to help children communicate with their friends.“Increasingly, kids are asking their parents if they can join apps that help them keep up with their friends,” he said.
“Right now there aren’t many options for parents, so we’re working on building additional products – like we did with Messenger Kids – that are suitable for kids, managed by parents.”
“We’re exploring bringing a parent-controlled experience to Instagram to help kids keep up with their friends, discover new hobbies and interests, and more.”
The spokesman said the social media company was “just beginning to explore the potential product” and would be working in close consultation with safety, privacy, and child development experts.
However, the move has raised concerns about potential privacy, bullying and addiction issues. Swinburne University lecturer Belinda Barnett said it was “a bad idea all round” and she was concerned about the impact on children of using a social media network such as Instagram.
“They’re at increased risk of predation and bullying, and basically not equipped yet as children to deal with the risks of social media,” she said. “You don’t want to introduce your kids to these platforms too early because they are addictive and it just starts that process earlier than 13.”
Ms Barnet said she did not believe Facebook was concerned with letting kids communicate with each other or worried about the social good. “It’s an untapped market,” she said. “There’s limited areas in which they could expand their user base, and expanding their user base has always been a priority and obviously they’ve decided now to go into to this market which is a great way for them to expand their user base.”
Instagram and Facebook have been facing increased competition from youth dominated social media platforms TikTok and Snapchat over recent years.