Photos: Public Domain
Published May 18, 2021
The Tennessee Conservative Staff –
Tennessee’s attorney general is teaming up with a group that is petitioning Facebook to put a halt to its plans to design a version of Instagram for children.
The group believes that social media usage at a young age can be harmful the health and well-being of children. They also feel that children are not prepared to deal with the many challenges that are brought about through social media.
Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery signed the group’s letter, along with the attorney generals from over 40 additional states.
“While collecting valuable family date and cultivating a new generation of Instagram users may be good for Facebook’s bottom line, it will likely increase the use of Instagram by young children who are particularly vulnerable to the platform’s manipulative and exploitative features,” the letter stated.
The new Instagram platform is being designed by Facebook for children under the age of 13. The company has stated that they would not allow any ads to be shown on the juvenile version of the program, but Tennessee Chief Deputy Attorney General Jonathan Skrmetti does not believe that’s enough.
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Skrmetti says the program will prey on children when they are psychologically vulnerable whether they include ads or not.
“And so, they’re creating consumers,” Skrmetti stated. “And they’re creating consumers who don’t recognize they’re going to potentially be commodified by these companies going forward.”
During a congressional hearing on misinformation earlier this year, Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg acknowledged that the company did have plans to move forward with the controversial app.
Facebook spokespeople have also released a statement saying their aim is to provide a medium that will let kids experience social media while also allowing parents to see and control their children’s activities.
Skrmetti said he sees the potential for legal action to be taken in the future as a result of the issue. He also makes note of Facebook’s previous failure to protect privacy and maintain safety for children on its platform.
“I think the goal is to avoid the need for litigation by appealing to the better angles of Facebook’s nature,” said Skrmetti, “and hoping that they recognize there’s severe harm that could happen if they start targeting children with their product.”
Facebook already offers the Messenger Kids app, a direct messaging program geared towards children ages six to twelve. 2019 reports showed that the app had a flawed design element that enabled children to join chat groups with individuals who were not approved by their parents.
“There are a lot of benefits that come with technology, but there are a lot of risks involved,” said Skrmetti, “and those risks are magnified for children. And we’re going to do everything we can to use the law to protect children. But parents need to be aware of what’s going on.”
Skrmetti urged parents to realize the dangers that can come with social media usage by children. A report from the National Council for Missing and Exploited Children found that in 2020, over 2 million images related to child abuse had been shared on Facebook and Instagram.