Facebook has made efforts to attract children online far beyond Instagram Kids

Facebook has made efforts to attract children online far beyond Instagram Kids

The company has commissioned a lot of research to study the behavior of preteens and understand how to intercept their attention

Photo: via Unsplash Facebook is studying ways to engage smaller and smaller users in its services. Messenger Kids has been a reality for years and the company's efforts to create an Instagram app suitable for children under 13 were already known, but new revelations show how important children are to the development of Facebook.

Internal documents obtained by the Wall Street Journal and presented in the latest installment of its Facebook Files reveal that Facebook has formed a special team to study children and reflect on ways their online business could be monetized. In one of these files, for example, children between the ages of 10 and 12 are referred to as a "valuable but unexploited audience".

The surprising thing is that Facebook research takes into account different age groups, including infants, i.e. children between 0 and 5 years old. Another document suggests "exploiting play encounters" between young children as a means of driving Facebook "growth". While another memo brings up the idea of ​​allowing children to use Messenger Kids on their own.

The company's children's research is explained by the success of apps like TikTok and Snapchat in attracting young users. "With the ubiquity of tablets and phones, children start surfing the internet from the age of six. We cannot ignore it and we have a responsibility to understand it, ”reads a confidential document seen by the Wall Street Journal.

Decreasing young people

Mark Zuckerberg has reason to be concerned because, unlike other apps, the number of teens using Facebook on a daily basis has fallen by 19% in the past two years and could decrease by a further 45% by 2023, according to another internal document. For this reason it is quite clear why the social network wants to "imagine a Facebook experience for the youngest". A presentation also sets the goal of getting teenagers to switch from Instagram to the Facebook app.

The need to get users to their services as soon as possible is linked to a business need. Facebook uses user data for micro-targeting, but federal laws in the United States prohibit the collection of data belonging to children under the age of 13. For this reason, explains Gizmodo, “Facebook has spent years looking for a way to get kids to adopt its services as soon as they are old enough to be tracked.”

Instagram head Adam Mosseri, he told the WSJ that "it's nothing new and it's no secret that social media companies are trying to understand how teens and preteens use technology." According to Mosseri, Facebook wants to “appeal to the next generation, but this is completely different from the false claim that we consciously attempt to recruit people who are not old enough to use our apps”.

Mental health issues

The possible effects Facebook's products have on younger users, however, are coming to light. According to the Journal, Facebook was aware, through internal research, that Instagram had negatively impacted the mental health of some teen users. Instagram would worsen "body image problems for one in three teenage girls," the research said, also noting that some girls have traced their suicidal ideas to their experiences on the platform.

Facebook responded by claiming that the results of the study were misrepresented and that the conclusions applied "only to adolescent girls who already had problems with their body image" and "not one in three of all adolescent girls". The social media company has so far refused to make this research available, but its vice president, Nick Clegg, said it will provide a summary in the coming days.

Concern about how the app could potentially harm children has been big enough to involve the United States Congress. Democratic representatives have asked Facebook to stop launching Instagram Kids, a version of the popular social network designed for children under 13. After the pressure received, the company announced this week that it has stopped developing the app for the time being, which according to Facebook would instead help protect children by separating them from adults online. The real goal of Facebook, according to the words that emerged in the latest story published by the Journal, however, seems to be to exploit even the smallest users.

The problems for society are not over, however, because a subcommittee of the Senate American, chaired by Democrat Richard Blumenthal, called Facebook representatives on September 30 to talk about the results of internal research on Instagram and minors. Testifying is Antigone Davis, Facebook's head of global security. On Tuesday 5 October, however, the presence of a whistleblower inside the company was announced at the hearing.

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Adolescence Facebook Gdpr Instagram Privacy Social media Wired Safe Web globalData.fldTopic = "Adolescence, Facebook, Gdpr, Instagram, Privacy, Social media, Wired Safe Web"

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