Remember the days when only adults have mobile phones? Gone are those days. Kids are also getting smartphones now, and they are getting them younger and younger.
If they use their phones for learning, playing games, or communicating with family members, then there's no issue. It is beneficial to their well-being. When they use their phones to get on social media, however, things are different.
Social media platforms are known to offer lots of conveniences. That is how they became an integral part of people's everyday lives. However, it is also no secret that they are problematic as well. The most known negative thing about social media platforms is they exacerbate mental health issues.
For that reason, kids are kept away from these platforms both by parents. Aside from that, there is also much content that is inappropriate for their age. These could cause the platforms to face legal troubles, so they don't permit children to be on their network either.
However, children have learned to misrepresent their age in order to use apps meant for older people. And there's no surefire way to stop them from doing so. Thus, many social media platforms saw it would be best to introduce a “Kids” version of their platforms. These mini platforms will give the children the experience they want, but in an environment that is safer for them. There will be no age-inappropriate content on these versions. Furthermore, parents will be able to supervise and control the kid's experiences.
The two video content-oriented social media platforms, YouTube and TikTok, have a Kids version of themselves. In mid-March this year, Instagram announced that it plans to launch its own.
The thing is, regulators and critics are against these versions. Controversies are revolving around YouTube Kids. And Instagram Kids is already in the same situation, albeit still under development.
BuzzFeed News is responsible for spreading the word about Instagram Kids being in the works last March. The news was poorly received. Health experts warned Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg that it was not a good idea because Instagram is inherently not for kids.
Being a photo-sharing platform focused mainly on appearance is the issue. It makes Instagram not suitable for kids who are in the “crucial stages of developing their sense of self.” Believing this, 40 attorneys general appealed to Mark Zuckerberg to discontinue Instagram Kids' development. They talked about how it could lead to cyberbullying, social comparison, and even sexual grooming. Parents and celebrities put emojis on kids' faces when they upload to social media to avoid these. But what would happen when there's Instagram Kids? Children will be able to post photos of themselves on their own accord. And the chances are low that they will cover or blur their own faces.
Aside from these threats, as mentioned above, social media is linked to negative impacts on people's mental health. Kids are more vulnerable, so it is imperative to keep them unexposed.
The Wall Street Journal also uncovered years of internal research by Facebook. The said research found that Instagram is causing harmful effects to a significant portion of its users. For instance, it found that body image issues have worsened for one in three girls because of Instagram. On top of that, the research found that teens are blaming Instagram for increases in the rate of anxiety and depression.
The researchers said these issues were unique to Instagram. They identify its nature of focusing on body and lifestyle as the root of these problems.
Despite these findings, from research done by the company itself, it has forged on with the plan to develop the Instagram alternative. It is indeed a questionable decision. And thus, the concerns were exacerbated.
On September 27, Adam Mosseri – head of Instagram – announced that they are putting the development of Instagram Kids on pause. But, he clarifies that it is not something critics should celebrate. According to Mosseri, it does not mean they agree with what the critics are saying. They still believe that a platform designed specifically for kids is the answer. “Developing age-appropriate experiences designed specifically for them is far better for parents than where we are today,” says Mosseri.
The post also explained what Instagram Kids would be like. It says that despite being called a “Kids” version, it was never meant for kids. Instead, it is for tweens – those who are 10 – 12 years old. Furthermore, it will contain age-appropriate content and features as you would expect. Also, there will be no ads. That is a good point since the controversies YouTube Kids is facing are caused by ads.\
Of course, parental permission will be required to join the platform. Moreover, parents can supervise the time their children spend on the app. They can also oversee who can message their children, taking potential risks of sexual grooming out of the equation.
These are only the features that have already been designed. There is more, according to Instagram.
Unfortunately, the development of those has been put to a halt. Instagram says the pause will allow them to work with parents, experts, policymakers, and regulators. This will grant Instagram time to listen to their concerns. Moreover, it will let Instagram showcase the value of the project for the younger teens online today.
While the development of Instagram Kids is on pause, the team will continue working on developing parental control tools. They will expand the feature to the accounts of teens. It will help parents better shape the experience of their teens, says Mosseri.
Mosseri also addressed what WSJ published. He says that the reported internal research was done to find ways to improve Instagram. And improve Instagram they did. It led to the “industry-leading” anti-bullying work such as the Restrict, Hidden Words, and Limits features on Instagram. Mosseri also mentions a feature tentatively called “Take a break.” It will encourage people to take a break from Instagram to reflect on whether or not the time they are spending is meaningful.
Only time will tell what the fast pace and action-packed development lifecycle will be for Instagram Kids. We can see Instagram is continuing to expand with its growing follower base, and a lot of the non-kid content is adult content, most of which is acceptable. Even the rise of sex doll companies are flourishing on Instagram, and they even keep their content clean, keeping them clothed and dressed up. Although, it's probably just because it really highlights how realistic they look and how far technology has come in general.
Not even rumor is true, and time will eventually collapse on itself to reveal Instagram's final form. Perhaps parents will have less to worry about if Instagram Kids does become a well-regulated portion of Instagram that they don't or won't have to worry about. We will see, and we wish them luck!
Date: April 12, 2022 / Categories: Interesting, / Author: Joy P
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