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40 attorneys general urge Facebook to kill plans to develop a version of Instagram for kids under 13

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Posted at 11:07 AM, May 11, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-11 14:15:51-04

Attorneys general from across the U.S. have written to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg urging him to drop company plans for a version of Instagram for children under the age of 13.

The attorneys general say they're concerned about social media’s effects on the physical and emotional well-being 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 read. "Further, Facebook has historically failed to protect the welfare of children on its platforms."

The letter cited research that points to an “increase in mental distress, self-injurious behavior and suicidality among youth" that use social media. It also pointed out that young children may not have developed an understanding of privacy, and "may not fully appreciate what content is appropriate for them to share with others, the permanency of content they post on an online platform, and who has access to what they share online."

The attorneys general also cited the potential for increased cyberbullying and site's potential vulnerability to predators.

Finally, the letter cited Facebook's "record of failing to protect the safety and privacy of children," citing reports from 2019 that showed a Facebook Messenger Kids app included a design flaw that allowed children to circumvent the system and join chats with adults.

Facebook in a statement Monday said it's just exploring Instagram for kids and would make every effort to protect children and would not show advertising on such a platform.

Facebook's plans to launch an Instagram platform for kids surfaced in March. In an interview with BuzzFeed News at the time, Instagram head Adam Mosseri said that the company recognized that many kids wanted to use Instagram and was only in the early stages of exploring potential ways to provide a product for children.