May 12, 2021

PRESS STATEMENT: Instagram is monetizing kids at the expense of their privacy, safety, and welfare


GREAT FALLS, Va., May 12, 2021 -- Facebook’s plans for an Instagram app allowing kids under 13 to share photos and content is a dangerous and reckless idea. Enough Is Enough® (EIE) stands with the 44 US Attorney Generals in asking Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to abandon these plans.

Instagram head Adam Mosseri said in a recent interview with Buzzfeed that plans are underway to develop “a version of Instagram for young people or kids where parents have transparency or control.” The platform was described as “part of the solution” to the social media giants’ issue of enforcing its so-called age restriction policy to keep kids under 13-years-old from having accounts.

Social media platforms have yet to put into place age-verification technologies to ensure that its existing users are indeed 13 years or older to comply with COPPA standards -- legislation that made it illegal to collect or store the personal information of children under age 13. Currently, kids can simply lie about their age to create an account.  So how can we rely on Big Tech to put the best interests of younger children in place? The simple answer is, we can’t and we shouldn’t.

For far too long, we’ve watched social media and big tech line their pockets while children and youth in the US and globally have been put at unprecedented risks of sexual predation, trafficking and exploitation, all while their social, physical and mental health remains under relentless attack.

The welfare of children has been in a state of crisis since the advent of social media. Teens who spend more than three hours a day on social media are more likely to develop mental health problems including depression, anxiety, aggression, and antisocial behavior.  Of children between ages eight and thirteen, 43% are speaking to strangers online using social media and gaming platforms, with a third of them speaking to strangers every day or at least once a week. Children under the age of 10 now account for 22% of online porn consumption among those under 18, while 10-14 year-olds make up 36% of minor consumers.

The Covid pandemic fueled the internet-enabled exploitation of children exponentially: 2020 was a record-breaking year, with more than 21.7 million reports of suspected child sexual exploitation made to NCMEC’s CyberTipline. These materials contained suspected child sexual abuse material (CSAM) and other incident related content. This marks the highest number of reports ever received in one year – a 28% increase over 2019. Just as disturbing, NCMEC reported a 97.5% increase in online enticement reports. 

Yet, in spite of the vulnerability of youth in the most dire of times, Facebook, which owns Instagram, has focused its attention on attracting younger users onto its Instagram platform. Medical science confirms that the pre-frontal cortex of children’s brains that controls common sense, judgment, and emotion, is not mature until approximately 25 years of age.Children are therefore unable to handle the online solicitations and the influx of content, images and addictive engagement tactics they are inundated with by social media platforms designed intentionally to encourage greater use.

A former Facebook director of monetization recently testified to Congress that Facebook's focus on driving engagement outweighs its consideration of potential harms, adding Facebook intentionally made its product as addictive as cigarettes. A former Google product manager made similar claims stating Silicon Valley is engineering phones, apps and social media to get users hooked.

Targeting and inviting children under 13 to use Instagram is as irresponsible as the DMV giving pre-teens a license to drive and expecting them to navigate the roads safely. Children are simply not equipped to handle the obstacles and challenges encountered though social media use. Further, it would be careless to think that a parent or caregiver would be readily available at all moments to offer a “parent-controlled experience” as noted by Facebook.

Children’s curiosity makes them vulnerable to exploitation, whether it is by pornographers, predators, bullies or Big Tech. It’s time for the tech industry to be part of the solution, not the problem. We must not allow them to white wash attempts to take advantage of children’s innocence in the name of the almighty dollar. We say Enough Is Enough®!