Mark Zuckerberg and the Facebook posse have plans in action to launch Instagram for children and the scream of a million NOPES can be heard the world over.

The objections to having a platform of curated images specifically targeting those under 13 years-of-age are more substantial than those of your snooty Aunty who likes to regale you with the fact that she raised her kids entirely without screens. We get it, Doris, congratulations on keeping your kids off technology that hadn’t been invented yet.

No. This is more than a screen time debate, this is a bid to stop traction on a slippery slope of exposure to potentially serious risks and very little benefit.

What could go wrong? A lot, that’s what.

Look, there’s probably not many of us that jumped straight in to handing over the phone and iPad to kids without consideration. One minute you’re succumbing to downloading YouTube Kids to give you a moment’s peace in the Doctor’s waiting room and the next your own phone is a vessel for a notification nightmare because you wondered just how bad Messenger Kids could really be?

But Instagram is a different beast.

Facebook has said the kids’ version of the social media platform would be “managed by parents” in a similar way to that which Messenger Kids is. They’ve promised they would offer “safe and age-appropriate” content but can they really?

The Australian Council of Children and the Media (ACCM) has joined a coalition of more than 100 leading international figures, including 44 US Attorney Generals alongside other children’s welfare groups in opposition to the idea.

After all, it’s not new information that Facebook has historically failed to protect the welfare of children on its platforms, so why would we expect anything different this time?

This is more than a screen time debate.

According to a 2017 study out of the U.K., Instagram had the worst mental-health outcomes for teen users of the platform compared to YouTube, Twitter, and even Snapchat.

The image-led platform has a reputation for having an unhealthy emphasis on appearances as curated and filtered content gives an unrealistic version of reality, which is unattainable in the real world.

What else is there to consider when it comes to social media platforms for children?

  • Potential bullying and harassment
  • Grooming
  • Mental health
  • Invasive advertising
  • The fact that more than 20 million child-sex-abuse images were identified on Facebook’s platforms in 2020 alone

Researchers say that Instagram invited users to “compare themselves against unrealistic, largely curated, filtered and Photoshopped versions of reality.”

ACCM chair Professor Elizabeth Handsley said: “We are concerned about the impact of looking at images, liking and being judged. The impact on children’s self -esteem, mood and development is potentially huge.”

As for who exactly would be using the platform, Professor Handsley argued that it would be “pretty impossible to keep adults off”.

“There will always be people out there who want to take advantage and not even Facebook could keep them safe,” she said.

In addition she also had concerns that given many children under 13 were already on social media, this could mean even younger children would be using Instagram for Kids.

“There will always be people out there who want to take advantage”

According to a letter from 44 of the US’s attorney generals to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, no, there should not be an Instagram for kids.

Like the ACCM, the US group also cited the raft of research suggesting social media use takes a toll on young users’ mental health. They also flagged concerns that children “may not fully appreciate what content is appropriate for them to share with others, the permanency of content they post on an online platform, and who has access to what they share online.”

Like the rest of the experts rallying against this idea, the attorney generals stated that “an Instagram platform for young children is harmful for myriad reasons,” and really who could argue?

It’s up to you now Zuck. The dollar or the future – what will it be?