SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – Facebook may be releasing a new social media application geared towards kids. It’s called Instagram Kids, and 44 Attorney General Offices across the nation are asking Facebook officials to cancel the release.
“It is already very difficult for us in law enforcement to protect young children, especially teenagers and young adults, from sexual predators, child pornographers, traffickers, and they use apps like Instagram to groom and then to lure, and then to exploit children,” says Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes. “When you already have that environment and then you expand, and not just make it legal but invite younger kids into that environment, it’s like a time bomb.”
University of Utah’s Department of Communications Associate Professor and Associate Chair Avery Holton studies social media use.
“Kids can be heavily influenced, their emotions can be influenced, their mental stability and mental wellness can be influenced by not only what they encounter and what they compare themselves to, but then what happens afterward,” he says.
He says there are three more primary areas of concern.
- Sharing Personal Information
- Being Perfect – like posting images of the “Best Version of Themselves.”
“When it really comes to the outward-facing social media, there tends to be among children and teenagers a lot of comparisons, you know, what are my friends doing that I am not? What should I be doing? How do I keep up?” says Holton. “It’s important to look at mental health and mental wellness, and emotional health and emotional well-being for children.”
Another issue surrounding Instagram Kids is the use of data. Facebook officials say they won’t track children’s data while using the application.
“We’re already in a lawsuit with Facebook indicating a number of our concerns about the unauthorized use of information or data without the key stakeholders, those providing the information,” says AG Reyes. “This is our message to the Facebook team, look you’ve done great work with us, standing shoulder to shoulder with us as a community to protect our young ones, can’t you see how misguided this particular decision is?”
The Safe UT App is one of the things attorneys General Reyes says the Facebook team was great to work with so kids could report bullying.
Now the Attorney General is urging parents to talk to their kids about their online decisions, understanding their needs to be a delicate balance.
He adds, “Know what your kids are on, try to limit access, and don’t try to take things away. That tends to just give more kids incentive to get on and find ways around it. Talk to them, be honest about the dangers that are out there.”