Behind the Instagram Kids break
Facebook’s announcement Monday that it was “on hold on development” on Instagram Kids did little to slow down a wave of criticism of the project ahead of a Senate hearing on Thursday.
Yes, but: There is an argument to be made for creating children’s versions of popular apps, even if their adult versions do damage in the real world.
While not without occasional issues, Google’s YouTube Kids and Facebook’s Messenger Kids have largely delivered on their promises to provide safer alternatives for their less organized adult counterparts.
- The risk, of course, is that while the children’s versions are safe, they will serve as ramps to larger platforms, which themselves can be dangerous.
Be smart: Kids’ apps can do a solid job of protecting privacy, but their limitations also make them unpopular with their target audience – so much so that kids would rather sneak up on Messenger or full YouTube rather than use the apps. youth versions.
- For this reason, companies like TikTok have created specific experiences within its main app for users under the age of 13 that restrict certain activities, like posting videos or private messaging.
Yet these efforts are also imperfect, given the ease with which users can bypass age checks.
- For example, the New York Times reported last year that nearly a third of daily active TikTok users in the United States were under the age of 14.
The big picture: Facebook’s decision to suspend work on Instagram Kids follows a string of negative disclosures in a Wall Street Journal series, including internal research showing Instagram is negatively impacting girls’ self-image. (Facebook pushed back on how the search has been characterized on Sunday.)
- Large companies, including Facebook, are criticized for their work on apps that target children at the same time as being pressured by law in the UK and elsewhere to create separate apps or different experiences within their app for the youngest.
- Last summer, several tech companies introduced new policies to protect children’s data in light of pending UK law promoting the privacy and well-being of young people online.
What to watch: The COVID-19 pandemic has seen children spend more time online and left overwhelmed parents feeling largely helpless in their ability to regulate screen time, even after the lockdowns are over. This is another reason why efforts to introduce new digital apps for children – even when they might be better alternatives to existing products – meet with skepticism.
What they say :
- Head of Instagram Adam Mosseri, in a post: “We firmly believe that it is better for parents to have the ability to give their children access to a version of Instagram designed for them – where parents can supervise and control their experience – than to rely on the ability to ‘an app to verify the age of children. who are too young to have ID. “
- Common Sense CEO Jim Steyer in a statement: “Don’t get me wrong, they will always try to build it. … The only thing they care about is hooking the kids up when they are most vulnerable, keeping them on the platform and d ‘have access to as much of their personal data as possible. “
- Sense. Edward Markey and Richard Blumenthal, representatives Lori Trahan and Kathy Castor: “Facebook has completely lost the benefit of the doubt when it comes to protecting young people online and it must completely abandon this project,” Democratic lawmakers said in a statement.