Children's advocacy groups are begging Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg to abandon plans for an Instagram for children.
In a letter published April 15, dozens of advocacy groups cited excessive screen use, body-image shame, and sexual abuse as some of the reasons to avoid building a social-media platform for kids under age 13.
"An Instagram site for kids will subject young children to a number of serious risks and will offer few benefits for families," the letter read.
Zuckerberg, the chief executive officer of Facebook, which owns Instagram, announced plans for the new site for kids last month. Instagram currently prohibits users younger than age 13, so the company told Insider previously that it's pursuing a "parent-controlled experience to Instagram to help kids keep up with their friends, discover new hobbies and interests, and more."
The advocacy groups said millions of kids have already lied about their age to get on Instagram, but even so, launching a children's version "is not the right remedy and would put young users at great risk."
"While collecting valuable family data and cultivating a new generation of Instagram users may be good for Facebook's bottom line, it will likely increase the use of Instagram by young children who are particularly vulnerable to the platform's manipulative and exploitative features," the letter read.
In a statement to Insider, a Facebook spokesperson said, "We've just started exploring a version of Instagram for younger teens. We agree that any experience we develop must prioritize their safety and privacy, and we will consult with experts in child development, child safety and mental health, and privacy advocates to inform it."
The spokesperson said Facebook wants to find a solution to kids lying about their age to access apps, and added that the new platform wouldn't show ads.
"The reality is that kids are online. They want to connect with their family and friends, have fun, and learn, and we want to help them do that in a way that is safe and age-appropriate," Facebook said.
The new initiative for Facebook is being led by Pavni Diwanji, who previously led YouTube Kids at Google.
Facebook currently has a platform called "Messenger for Kids," which in 2019 came under scrutiny for a flaw in the app that allowed some young users to chat with adults.
In the letter, the groups cited reported problems with child sexual abuse on Facebook and Instagram, as well as excessive social media use being linked to obesity, decreased happiness and sleep, and increased risk of depression and suicide.