Odd that I would be using the word "restraint" and "Facebook" in the same sentence, but Facebook showed some mild restraint recently when it decided to halt their plan to launch Instagram Kids. I say mild restraint because Instagram's head ended his sentence with "for now." Then he picked right back up again,, saying that launching an app for kids under 13 is still “the right thing to do.”
If you are one of those who wonders what newfangled sorcery this Instagram thing is, it is a video and photo sharing application created way back in 2010 and absorbed by the Borg (Facebook) in 2012 for the low low price of just one billion dollars. Why have a competitor when you can just absorb them? It is perhaps worth noting that currently, Instagram is not as old as the users who they hope to add to their service. Not that conscience plays a big part in the machinations of Silicon Valley.
I am the computer teacher at a school where every one of the students is younger than thirteen. That said, they are have all grown up in a world in which posting photos and videos to Instagram is part of their reality. If it didn't happen on Instagram, it didn't happen. And yes, I know that there are kids looking at this and snickering about this old dude talking about Instagram. By the time I become aware of most of the really cool apps or websites, the children have moved on to something way more hip and trendy.
Which is precisely the aim behind Facebook's move to get those under thirteen into their system. The box that needs to be checked next to the "I am over thirteen" on the account application page is the main security measure keeping pre-teens from joining Instagram Classic. This pause comes just before a congressional subcommittee called “Protecting Kids Online: Facebook, Instagram, and Mental Health Harms” is scheduled to convene. Chief of Instagram, Adam Mosseri, insisted that critics of “Instagram Kids” will interpret the pausing of the app’s development “as an acknowledgement that the project is a bad idea. That’s not the case. The reality is that kids are already online, and we believe that developing age-appropriate experiences designed specifically for them is far better for parents than where we are today.”
Instead, Mosseri asserted, alting Instagram Kids “will give us time to work with parents, experts, policymakers and regulators, to listen to their concerns, and to demonstrate the value and importance of this project for younger teens online today.” By "younger teens," he means kids between ten and twelve. All of which kind of flies in the face of the place where I live, with eight and nine year olds carrying phones around packed with apps that "need parental consent." Many of these kids have figured out how to add a few to the year in which they were born and sign up, beating the "system."
So, it seems that this odd bit of restraint from the Borg is just a pause meant to satisfy those who don't have an Instagram account in the first place, and a nice way to entice those kids who may have grown tired of that old thing anyway. Facebook? Instagram? My dad uses that. Meanwhile, I would be much more impressed if Mark Zuckerberg or his minions would come out of their cubicles and say that kids should be outside in the sunshine, having real interactions with one another and waiting until they are over thirteen to start hiding behind a profile picture.
I am so very, very old.
Older than thirteen.