So we just heard this news and this is huge! Facebook is in the early development stage for an instagram specially made for kids under 13. In a statement, Instagram's vice president Vishal Shah, said the following:
“We will be building a new youth pillar within the Community Product Group to focus on two things: (a) accelerating our integrity and privacy work to ensure the safest possible experience for teens and (b) building a version of Instagram that allows people under the age of 13 to safely use Instagram for the first time.”
From one side, yes, totally, great that the world is starting to look out for the responsible media use of kids; a need that Koala Charlotte Media has picked up on since its creation back in 2018, and one of the- if not even the main reason - we founded Koala Charlotte. As the voice for all parents, who, we're sure rather would have their kid live in the present, in nature, in connection to their surroundings; in gardens and playgrounds instead of looking at a screen. Moreover, plenty of research already shows the many disadvantages digital media use brings in a child's development: from poor performance, sleep problems to cognitive and social underdevelopment.
However, it's a fact that kids below 13 years old also use Instagram, even though there is a minimum age to use social apps such as facebook, instagram and TikTok; we have to see the situation as it is: as parents we don't have full control over our kid's media use. We do have somewhat control but no total control. An older generation of parents might not even recognize one of the newest social channels such as TikTok; something that could easily be overseen when scrolling through a child's phone quickly. And who knows what technological innovations are still to come our way. On that note, great that Instagram wants to improve the safety of kids, and take back control on cyber bullying and predators. Great that as parents, we will have a safer option to choose and great to hear and see that we are going towards a society that notices this need. But... if we zoom out just a little...our kids - below 13 years old- maybe not even in high school yet...with a phone in their hands. With the entire world in their hands. The world with dramatic news reporting, melting icecaps , violence, wars, illness , - that box of pandora can open and their innocence is forever lost. But not only their innocence. Research has shown that kids, when presented with - for instance - violent content, can show altered brain connections and emotional insensitivity.
Is that what we really want? Isn't that the problem? That kids below the age of 13 have phones and have underdeveloped cognitive thinking skills, which results in poor assessment making in general? Do we want them to think the world needs to be seen through a filter... don't we rather teach them about a more positive body image? Do we want them to just have access to the entire world under the age of 13? Would you put them on a flight alone to Japan? To the parents who say yes to the last question: You probably still understand the point we're making. :)
Another pain point we recognize is: will it then be cooler for kids to download the 'real' instagram, as the other one is for 'kids'? Heck my 4 year old already thinks she should have a real phone and not one that is a toy. She already tells me what toys are for 'small' kids and which are for her. From the age of 3, kids do start to think that they are in fact grown-ups, they have no clue how small they really are. For them, they do feel that they can take on the entire world behind that phone.
So is Instagram's solution something like a quick band-aid on an actual really big problem that we have hardly started tackling: the use of cellphones and digital media for kids in general? And how can we best deal with introducing kids to the digital world? These are big questions... which we hope the team at Instagram will consider!
Also: We are currently already in the midst of working on 2 great projects with regards to kids & digital media and cannot wait to share the end results with you once we are ready! Subscribe to our newsletter to stay tuned. We are so excited! Love, Team Koala Charlotte