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Instagram Kids Development Halted in Light of Negative Impact on Children

When Facebook disclosed that it was considering making phones more appealing to kids by creating a version of Instagram for pre-teens, there was a general uproar. This article explores the stance taken by our clinical psychologist, Dr. Renee Solomon, PsyD, CEO and Director of Forward Recovery.    Instagram Kids app would require parental permission and provide material tailored to kids aged 10 to 12, but its development was halted in late September 2021, following a backlash from parents, clinicians, and the mental health community.  According to experts, there’s a well-established relationship between social media and cyberbullying, depression, anxiety, and suicide among youngsters. Why introduce these problems to children?    The concept of purposely hooking another generation on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok is nauseating to any parent — or social media user, for that matter.   

Instagram Kids: A Safe Haven or a Dangerous Platform?

Facebook has been looking for a suitable way to launch Instagram Kids, which would resemble Instagram—one of the most popular photo-sharing social media platforms—for a long time. According to the Wall Street Journal, Facebook is aware that Instagram Kids can damage minors, leading to measures to halt its growth. Their primary concern is that youngsters, particularly females, are bombarded with pictures of the perfect physique and life, among other things, 24 hours a day. Adam Mosseri, the head of Instagram, said in a statement that the app, which Instagram is currently reviewing, would include “age-appropriate content and features” for younger children. It would allow parents to view and control many parts of their children’s online presence inside it. However, not everyone agrees that a space dedicated solely to the young adolescent congregation is the safest alternative.  

The Debate Over Children’s Increased Use of Social Media

Experts are wary about another platform that encourages social media use in an already vulnerable demographic. “Instagram Kids is a horrible idea,” argues Dr. Renee Solomon. She claims that this is just another technique for teenagers to get more screen time. This isn’t good for brain growth or developing social skills since research shows that excessive screen use, in general, can lead to underdeveloped social skills and addictive behavior. On top of that, young adolescent social media use can have extra consequences. They may be concerned about how many likes they are receiving or consuming excessive quantities of manipulated photos, which can have an influence on their self-esteem. “Social media is awful for children,” Dr. Solomon says. “It makes them feel not good enough and left out. Kids have always felt left out when they are not invited to a birthday party.” She claims that the party is now publicized for all to see on Instagram, adding to the severity of the problem. “Children and adolescents are naturally self-conscious and feel like everyone is looking at them. When they are left out of a photo, they think that everyone notices this as well,” she says. Dr. Solomon is concerned that this software would simply exacerbate situations of low self-esteem.

Why Are Young Girls So Susceptible to Instagram’s Influence?

It is a highly visual platform with a strong influence on young females in particular. “Young girls see pictures of celebrities and believe that they have to look exactly like Kylie Jenner to be beautiful,” says Dr. Solomon. “Many of these pictures are photo-shopped or are shot from specific angles, and utilize very flattering light.” Eating Recovery Center’s regional clinical director, Allison Chase, Ph.D., concurs. “[Instagram is] a world in which everything is edited and not necessarily reality,” she explains. She considers the creation of an Instagram program aimed towards youngsters and early adolescents to be “irresponsible.” Daniel Peters, Ph.D., a psychologist and the co-host of the Exactly Right podcast Parent Footprint, is concerned about the effects of social media, particularly on females. On the one hand, he says that social media can increase the likelihood of eating disorders and negatively impact mental health. While he recognizes the benefits for older teenagers and adults, he hopes that parents would hold off on allowing their children to enter this world until they are older. “It would be prudent to consider keeping children away from social media for as long as possible, rather than developing a platform for them,” advises Dr. Peters.  

The Bottom Line

According to behavioral health experts, parents do not need to prohibit their children from accessing social media entirely, but it is essential to establish guidelines and restrictions for interacting with the platforms. Parents should ask their children about their social media activities frequently and watch for any changes in their mood, sleep, or eating patterns.    

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