ROUGE, LA – Citing serious concerns about the safety of children and the harm
social media poses to young people, Attorney General Jeff Landry has joined a
bipartisan coalition of 44 attorneys general urging Facebook to abandon its
plans to launch a version of Instagram for children under the age of 13.
“While the Internet can be a great resource for learning and fun, cyberspace can also be a dangerous place for Louisiana’s kids. From oversharing to cyberbullying, children on social media – with just a couple of clicks – can find themselves in embarrassing situations and dangerous predicaments,” said Attorney General Landry. “Data and research are clear: there is a link between young people’s use of social media and an increase in mental distress, self-injurious behavior, and suicidality. For the physical, emotional, and mental safety and well-being of Louisiana’s children – I urge Facebook to scrap their plans for Instagram Kids.”
In a letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Attorney General Landry and his colleagues express various concerns over Facebook’s proposal – including research that social media can be harmful to children; rapidly worsening concerns about cyberbullying on Instagram; use of the platform by predators to target children; Facebook’s checkered record in protecting the welfare of children on its platforms; and children’s lack of capacity to navigate the complexities of what they encounter online – including advertising, inappropriate content and relationships with strangers.
Additionally, Landry and his fellow attorneys general argue that young children are not equipped to handle the many challenges that come with having an Instagram account – including that they often lack a developed understanding of privacy. There is also a risk that predators may exploit children online and cloak their identities using the anonymity of the Internet. One report found an increase of 200 percent in recorded instances in the use of Instagram to target and abuse children over a six-month period in 2018. In 2020 alone, Facebook and Instagram reported 20 million child sexual abuse images.
Cyberbullying is also a major concern, and a 2017 survey found that 42 percent of young Instagram users had experienced cyberbullying on the platform – the highest percentage of any platform measured. As children spend more time online during the COVID-19 pandemic, these issues have likely been exacerbated.
The attorneys general also cast doubt on Facebook’s ability to protect children on their proposed Instagram platform and comply with relevant privacy laws such as the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act. They point out that the company has a record of failing to protect the safety and privacy of children. For instance, Facebook’s Messenger Kids app contained a glitch that allowed children to circumvent restrictions and join group chats with strangers.
Attorney General Landry once again encourages parents and guardians to be sure their kids know of the perils lurking online. Instead of simply relying on software applications or device restrictions – Attorney General Landry advocates for them to know the websites their kids are visiting, the apps they are downloading, the people they are talking to, and the info they are sharing. What’s more: Attorney General Landry urges parents and guardians to be sure their kids come to them if any situation online causes fear, discomfort, or confusion.
Joining Attorney General Landry in the letter are the attorneys general of Massachusetts, Nebraska, Tennessee, Vermont, Alaska, California, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Guam, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Northern Mariana Islands, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.