Facebook’s plan of launching a version of Instagram for children from six years old to 12 would be opening a Pandora’s box we’ll never be able to close.
The tech giant has, according to BuzzFeed News, announced it aims to create a photo-sharing app for children under 13, to allow them to “safely use Instagram”.
The plan is to build a parent-controlled version of the app for children.
All I can say to this is thank God my daughter has grown up and I feel heartily sorry for parents who have young children today.
We all know, as parents, that peer pressure will inevitably end up dictating if your child winds up accessing such tech.
And if you allow this to happen, you may be unwittingly allowing a myriad of problems to unfold.
According to a recent Eurostat report, almost nine in 10 Europeans aged 16 to 24 are on social media.
And according to our own Spunout.ie, the average Irish teenager checks in on their social media accounts at least 60 times a day. Can we stop for a minute and take that in? Spunout.ie states this type of usage “has effects on the developing adolescent brain”.
When I was a teenager I was busy enjoying my life in real time.
A Eurofound study in April 2020 found 55 pc of young adults were at risk of depression.
No definitive link has been proven to connect this mental health crisis to social media use. However, social media is the main aspect that’s changed in young people’s lives, as time has progressed.
Numerous studies have also linked social media use with negative body issues.
Jennifer Henry, director of the counselling centre at Maryville University, US, told Forbes magazine: “Many aspects can contribute to reduced self-esteem and body dissatisfaction, including comparisons with peers, celebrities and social media influencers, most of whom post carefully posed, selected and filtered photos.”
As a parent, I purposely made the decision not to buy my daughter a smartphone until she was 14. I could see what was unfolding, even back then in 2013.
I opted for a Blackberry, when I did buy a phone, believing it to be the better option.
There was a tide turning even then, as technology developed and started to engulf our every waking hour.
And mental health was already becoming an increasing problem among the young.
When I bought that Blackberry, I was writing about children taking their lives, children experiencing online bullying.
I will never forget the name of Ciara Pugsley, who was just 15 when she took her life in September 2012 after being mercilessly bullied on controversial website Ask.fm.
I will never forget interviewing her father, Jonathan. Nothing could ever heal his pain.
I couldn’t get Ciara’s face out of my mind as I watched young girls piling through the school gates, all seemingly fixated on their phones.
We cannot turn back time, technology is here to stay. Social media came into our lives and we had no idea just how much it would dominate everything we experience today. How much it would take over.
Of course children can catch up with friends, share their views online and feel connected, but I argue that to open this world up to children below 13 is reckless.
Many of us, even as adults, feel an increasing sense of anxiety and depression.
We are online nearly all our lives now. We are plugged in 24-7. And, I’d happily admit, I feel much more at peace when I put the phone down and take time out.
I feel blessed to remember a time before this, when I had a youth without a smartphone or the internet. I remember feeling free as a child in the 1980s and I know I’d have felt peer pressure to go online if all my friends had been there.
I know it would have changed who I am today and not for the better. I would call on the Government and the EU to take control of this issue. It seems we certainly can’t depend on tech companies to look at the social ramifications on our children.
Children need time to grow, to be free and to think for themselves. They should not be plugged into technology before they’ve had time to explore our world.