KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Tennessee’s Attorney General Herbert H. Slatery III is leading a coalition of 44 attorneys general against Facebook’s plan to launch a version of Instagram for children under the age of 13.
“Facebook has a record of failing to protect the safety and privacy of children. […] Let’s not take their word for it that this time — and with a product specifically created for children — is going to be any different.”Herbert H. Slatery III
In their letter to CEO Mark Zuckerberg, the attorneys general express various concerns about Facebook’s proposal, including:
- research showing social media can be harmful to the physical, emotional, and mental well-being of children
- rapidly worsening concerns about cyberbullying on Instagram
- use of the platform by predators to target children
- Facebook’s checkered record in protecting the welfare of children on its platforms
- children’s lack of capacity to navigate the complexities of what they encounter online, including advertising, inappropriate content, and relationships with strangers
At a March congressional hearing, Zuckerberg dismissed the idea that social media is harmful to children. However, according to the coalition, there is data showing a link between young people’s use of social media and an increase in mental distress, self-injurious behavior, and suicidality.
Instagram has been frequently flagged for increasing suicidal ideation, depression and body image concerns in children, according to Slatery. The attorneys general also point out the company has a record of failing to protect the safety and privacy of children. For example, Facebook’s Messenger Kids app contained a glitch that allowed children to join group chats with strangers despite the restrictions.