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Opinion: Instagram Kids, Facebook’s Worst Bad Idea

October 20, 2021

Instagram Kids. A name that combines two seemingly antithetical terms.

Facebook (owner of Instagram) recently announced it would be pausing development of the app. But why did Facebook create Instagram Kids?

Instagram had a major problem: age spoofing on Instagram by underage (under 13 years of age) users, and it was reaching a breaking point around the turn of the decade.

Facebook was left in a two-way bind because of the situation. 

One on one hand, they couldn’t stay uninvolved and let age spoofing grow on Instagram. On the other hand, they had no other feasible solution other than creating an app for these underage users to be on. 

If they created this app, Facebook would most likely receive negative reactions because, well, everyone knows social media is toxic. People wouldn’t want an even younger generation to be affected by this toxicity.

Facebook chose the latter option, but things turned out worse than they already would have. 

Instead of Facebook announcing the app themselves and controlling its messaging to the media, development of the app was discovered and confirmed by Buzzfeed News in March of 2021.

When the story broke, people of all ages were (to put it mildly) extremely unhappy. 

Parents, grandparents, and even older teens were worried about the effect that this app would have on kids that weren’t even past elementary school yet. They couldn’t believe that Facebook, a company already in hot water for numerous reasons, had the nerve to create and market an app towards their children – kids who weren’t even teens yet!

Of course, it wasn’t Facebook’s goal to directly indoctrinate kids into the world of social media, but rather to combat the problem of age spoofing on Instagram. However, because, as aforementioned, they didn’t formally announce the app themselves, Facebook had no sort of control over these swirling opinions.

So did Facebook choose the right option? Was it really a good idea to carry through with the development of this app?

Frankly, no.

The creatives at Facebook who thought up the idea of Instagram Kids created two gaping holes in the center of the app’s idea.

The overall goal of Instagram Kids was to combat the rampant age spoofing on their app, but would it even do that?

The Instagram Kids app gives the age spoofing kids no reason to get on their app if they’re already on Instagram. What 12 year old would move to an app for kids younger than them?

The objection to this point is that parents would be the ones to bring kids over to the app. But that logic makes no sense.

If a child under 13 is already on Instagram, there’s a good chance that they don’t have parental permission to do so. So if parents have to be the ones to move kids over to the new app, how would they do it if they don’t know that their child is on Instagram in the first place?

There’s also the second hole, which is that Instagram Kids is sort of the gateway drug to the world of social media.

For example: a 10 year old sees an advertisement for Instagram Kids and starts annoying his mom to let him get the app. After days of this incessant pestering, the mom gives in because, in the end, the app is designed for kids by none other than Facebook. 

What she doesn’t know is that, though the app is designed for kids, Instagram Kids is still an Instagram app made by Facebook: it’s still social media. 

A child still sees that his friends have bigger houses, go on more vacations, and have more money than his family does. A child can still be predated or groomed. A child can still be cyberbullied by his peers. Most of all, a child can experience a complete shift to his worldview through an app which purposefully misrepresents it. 

That’s because, like I said, the child is still on social media.

Before I end, let me give you my personal experience. 

When I was in 5th grade, I got my first functional phone that cost $49.99, running the cheaper side for phones even in 2014. The first thing I did on this phone was download an app named Instagram, and told the app I was born in 1999. 

I regret this decision. At that age, I shouldn’t have been exposed to what I was and Instagram gave a skewed worldview for most of my younger teenage years.

Combined with the fact that I was already unlike other kids both identity-wise and financially, the app affected my personality and thus alienated me even more from those around me.

I soon found that the only close friends I had were the ones I met online – some of them were my age, others above the age of 20. 

It took years and a life-changing move across the country for me to break out of the world that Instagram put me in. I know people myself that still, sadly, fall and remain victim to this cycle.

Hence, the idea that a kid in the position I was in should be exposed to what I was at an even younger age, this time without breaking a single rule to do so, is extremely worrying to me – and I don’t even have kids of my own.

In short, it’s one of Facebook’s worst ideas yet, and no matter the situation or bind they were in, they would have created a uniquely horrible app in Instagram Kids. 

While I’m happy that the app’s development was paused, Facebook should announce Instagram Kids’ complete suspension so no other 5th, 4th, or even 3rd grader will fall victim to what I and many others have. And after reading all that I’ve said, I should hope you believe so as well.

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