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Sprinkles from the Left

Commentators on the Left appear against any future ‘Instagram for Kids’ platform due to an increased risk of predation, addiction, and bullying. They argue children are not properly equipped to deal with the inherent risks of social media.

  • Many contend that, instead of being beneficial, social media has a direct negative impact on children and teens. They also point to research showing Instagram is the worst social media platform for young people’s mental health.
  • We also included a passage arguing there are bright spots in social media for kids, though this opinion appears less widely distributed.

“For all the recent debate about Instagram Kids, anonymous apps pose one of the biggest current threats to children’s safety.

Take Sarahah as an example. Founded in 2016, the app was designed as a way to give anonymous feedback to your coworkers. It invited anyone with a link to answer a user’s question anonymously. Much to its founder’s surprise, Sarahah was quickly hijacked by teens and at one point attracted a staggering 300 million users. Researchers don’t know much about the kinds of questions teens asked, and overwhelmingly negative press coverage might not reflect the realities of the app. But we do know that users weren’t always on their best behavior: Sarahah was plagued with more complaints of cyberbullying than it could safely handle and was subsequently removed from app stores in 2018.

Secret, an anonymous app founded in 2014, suffered a similar fate. Allowing users to share a “secret” with friends, the app was extremely popular with kids, earning the top spot in app stores in eight countries. But former CEO David Byttow said his team could not “control” the extent of users’ cyberbullying and other harassment, leading him to shut the app down in 2015, less than a year after it launched.

Anonymous apps that become popular by surprise pose huge risks to children’s safety, and yet they don’t seem to get the same volume of attention as the big players. To my knowledge, no countries today have laws requiring social media startups to have content moderation workforces at all, or for them to take a particular shape. This means kids can use anonymous apps mostly unsupervised, not just by their parents but also by app workers.”

Ysabel Gerrard, Wired

“One benefit is that global connectivity is helping my son embrace global citizenship. He will happily connect with kids in any country, in any language, in alphabets I don’t even recognize.

I didn’t grow up that way and I’m proud to see him finding a place in the wider world. I hope those advantages can outweigh the greed for “likes” and fame found in the Children’s Digital Media Center study.

But I also see the upside in those likes. My son has A.D.H.D. and often feels frustrated at his failures. But he loves flipping, and he is amazing at it. I let him use Instagram because I wanted him to connect with other kids like him — essentially to find his people.

“We have a study that shows that kids who use social media do feel more connected to friends, whether it’s friends online or ones they see every day at school,” Ms. Filucci said.

It has definitely served that purpose, as well as being a creative outlet. I’m enjoying watching him learn how to edit video, make artistic choices, and understand the copyright rules of music. Reading captions on his posts like, “This is my favorite trick to do off the mini-tramp” gives me a little window into who he is that I may not have otherwise.

Yes, it’s a little scary at times, but mostly, it makes me smile to scroll through his feed. Though I admit, I still haven’t figured out what to tell the 7-year-old about a YouTube channel.”

Judi Ketteler, New York Times

Sprinkles from the Right

Commentators on the Right appear to be against any future ‘Instagram for Kids’ in an effort to protect children, whose brains have not yet fully developed, from the potential dangers of the Internet.

  • They argue the proposed idea would create a platform where child predators could thrive, citing an International Group of Human Rights NGOs who called Instagram a “predator’s paradise.”

“As of 2018, Instagram has more than 1 billion users worldwide, and more than half (over 500 million) are daily users. Of those, about 60% are females under the age of 34. This is not coincidental. In fact, the software has been engineered to keep them engaged longer and coming back for more. Bottomless scrolling, tagging, notifications, and live stories tap into the fear of missing out (FOMO) that give teens so much anxiety. Or as We The Internet posed in a YouTube video, the site has “engineered addiction”…

Compared to Twitter, Facebook or YouTube, it appears that Instagram leads to more comparisons between ourselves and others. This, in turn, contributes to more anxiety and depression due to feelings of inadequacy. Research suggests this is due to increased exposure to “idealized” images of other women, couples, and lives in general. Increased exposure is linked to decreased happiness with one’s own life.”

Nicole F. Roberts, Forbes

“Instagram’s plans to recruit a younger audience is especially worrying, considering it is one of the most popular sites for child predators. In 2019, an international group of human rights NGOs called Instagram a “predator’s paradise.” According to one report, members of the group “compiled an alarming dossier of grooming-style behaviors on the popular social media platform.” The researchers “discovered hundreds of predatory comments from men describing sexual acts they wanted to perform on underage girls, some as young as 7”…

Instagram 2.0 is simply a means of monetizing malleable young minds: Put a phone in children’s hands as early as possible, get them signed up to Instagram, and then, after thousands of hours scrolling, move them onto a different platform. Facebook is in the business of creating customers for life. It’s like factory farming, but your children are the animals.

When we think of evil, we tend to think of men in balaclavas, armed with weapons, moving quietly through the dead of night. However, some of the worst ideas are in plain sight, and some of the worst people are in positions of power. They lobby politicians and play major roles in drafting legislation. This is the banality of evil in its purest form, and Mark Zuckerberg is its poster boy.

In 2019, when Facebook tried to launch Libra, its own digital currency, Congress stepped in. Now, two years later, it must do the same again. “

John Mac Ghlionn, NY Post

“In the end, of course, this is no joke. Unless you’ve stuck your head underground for the past five years, you’ve likely noticed the growing reams of stories detailing the apparent correlation between the Internet, smartphone technology, and a striking rise in mental illness in young people. San Diego State University psychologist Jean Twenge has written about this in detail, noting how youth depression and anxiety and suicide attempts have surged since 2009. This, of course, is when smartphones began to take over the world.”

Heather Wilhelm, National Review