Instagram for kids reportedly in the works from Facebook

Currently, people under 13 can't use the photo sharing app.

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2 min read

A new Instagram product for kids could become a reality.

Angela Lang/CNET

Facebook is looking to create a version of Instagram for kids under the age of 13, according to a Thursday report by BuzzFeed News. The publication cited an internal company post about the project.

"I'm excited to announce that going forward, we have identified youth work as a priority for Instagram and have added it to our H1 priority list," Vishal Shah, Instagram's vice president of product, reportedly wrote on an employee message board. "We will be building a new youth pillar within the Community Product Group to focus on two things: (a) accelerating our integrity and privacy work to ensure the safest possible experience for teens and (b) building a version of Instagram that allows people under the age of 13 to safely use Instagram for the first time."

Currently, anyone under 13 isn't allowed to use the photo sharing platform. Facebook similarly rolled out Messenger Kids in 2017, which is designed specifically for children under 13.

A Facebook representative didn't confirm the full details of the BuzzFeed report, but said in a statement: "Increasingly kids are asking their parents if they can join apps that help them keep up with their friends. Right now there aren't many options for parents, so we're working on building additional products -- like we did with Messenger Kids -- that are suitable for kids, managed by parents. We're exploring bringing a parent-controlled experience to Instagram to help kids keep up with their friends, discover new hobbies and interests, and more." 

Instagram's head Adam Mosseri would reportedly oversee the effort, while Facebook vice president Pavni Diwanji would lead it, according to BuzzFeed. Before joining Facebook, the publication notes Diwanji worked for Google and oversaw products aimed at children, including YouTube Kids

For years, people have called out apps like Instagram for taking a toll on people's mental wellbeing. Instagram, along with parent Facebook, has been criticized by users, advocacy groups and lawmakers for harboring harmful content and fostering anxiety and depression, particularly among younger audiences. In 2017, the UK's Royal Society for Public Health published a report that found Instagram is the worst social media platform for young people's mental health. Some studies have also found that social media platforms can indirectly take a toll on users by increasing their exposure to bullying and cutting back on their sleep and exercise. 

"Facebook poses one of the biggest threats when it comes to children's privacy," Rasha Abdul-Rahim, co-director of Amnesty Tech, said in a statement. "Facebook will be harvesting children's data and profiting off their detailed profiles. ... Children will remain at risk of being bombarded with targeted advertising and incendiary content designed to keep their attention above all else. They will be left at the mercy of Facebook's algorithms that all too often amplify disinformation and divisive content in order to prioritize engagement."