Facebook, the social media site your uncle gets his misinformation from, is pulling back from a plan to make a social media network just for kids. According to a blog post from the square picture’d sibling Instagram, a plan to make an Instagram Kids social media site has officially been put on pause following a wide array of backlash for all the reasons that likely just popped into your head.
You can pretty much take your pick from a long list of problems when it comes to the reason the company decided to pull the plug. Social media’s impact on brains both young and old is still being studied but the early returns are not good, and there is a long list of controversies the Mark Zuckerberg-owned company has endured in recent years as the massive entity comes to grips with its impact on the real world.
The company’s been accused of aiding in sex trafficking in the past due to lax moderation, for starters. Then there’s that same moderation problem that has led to the radicalization of countless thousands of people to conspiracies like QAnon or anti-vaccination nuts because of a mysterious algorithm that has more power over society than you can even imagine.
But as Variety notes, a likely reason the app got put on pause is a bit more political. Like, “the government actually getting involved to regulate these massive online entities because they’re (probably) a public health risk” political.
The move to pause Instagram Kids comes three days before the Sept. 30 House subcommittee hearing “Protecting Kids Online: Facebook, Instagram, and Mental Health Harms,” at which Antigone Davis, Facebook director, global head of safety, is the sole witness scheduled to testify.
It’s no surprise, perhaps, that Facebook continues to insist in Dril-like fashion that this is actually a good idea despite the news.
Mosseri, in a blog post Monday, predicted that critics of “Instagram Kids” will interpret the pausing of the app’s development “as an acknowledgement that the project is a bad idea. That’s not the case. The reality is that kids are already online, and we believe that developing age-appropriate experiences designed specifically for them is far better for parents than where we are today.”
That logic may have some semblance of truth, but it’s also fair why no one really seems to trust a company like Facebook (or Twitter or any other one that currently exists) to handle it properly given the current state of things. The Variety story digs into exactly why an Instagram Kids could be so dangerous for so many given how damaging Being Online can be to young people.
The decision to pause Instagram Kids also follows a Wall Street Journal report earlier this month that cited Instagram’s own research showing that Instagram is “toxic” for teenage girls. For example, 32% of teen girls said that when they felt bad about their bodies, “Instagram made them feel worse,” according to a March 2020 research report conducted by Instagram that was shared on Facebook’s internal message board, per the WSJ report.
In fact, according to Raychoudhury, on 11 of 12 well-being issues, teenage girls who said they struggled with difficult issues also said that Instagram made them better rather than worse.
It’s all fairly harrowing stuff, and while Facebook may be trying to be less toxic to humanity it’s easy to understand the skepticism basically across the board on it all, even in the American government itself. All of this a good reminder to log off every now and again, regardless of your age. It’s good for your health.