A group of 44 attorneys general penned a letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckenberg calling for the company to drop its plan for a kids version of Instagram.
“Instagram for Kids,” the bipartisan groups says, poses a threat to the safety and well being of children who could face increased cyberbullying, and be digitally vulnerable to predators.
“It appears that Facebook is not responding to a need, but instead creating one, as this platform appeals primarily to children who otherwise do not or would not have an Instagram account,” the letter signed by attorneys general from 40 states, three US territories, and Washington, D.C. said.
The social networking company told BuzzFeed in March it would be “exploring a parent-controlled exploring experience.” Advocates say social media has already negatively impacted children and young adult’s well-being.
“It’s shameful that Facebook is ignoring the very real threat that social media poses to the safety and well-being of young children in an attempt to profit off of a vulnerable segment of our population,” Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey said in a statement.
Black children are particularly vulnerable to cyberbullying found on social media. According to the National Institute on Mental Health (NIMH), suicide was the second leading cause of death among Black children between the ages of 10 and 14 in 2018.
The Congressional Black Caucus launched an initiative in December 2019 to address the alarming rates of suicide among Black youth, including establishing researching and funding resources. The NIMH says more research is needed in this area, though previously-established data indicates cyberbullying, in-person bullying, racism, and discrimination are all factors in suicide rates among Black youth.
Facebook says they’re looking at creating the platform to carve out a space for kids who are already online and giving more control to their guardians.
“We are developing these experiences in consultation with experts in child development, child safety and mental health, and privacy advocates,” the company said in a statement. “We also look forward to working with legislators and regulators, including the nation’s attorneys general.”
If you or someone you know needs to talk, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is open. Anyone who needs to talk can call 800-273-8255 no matter the time of day.
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