Instagram, the popular social media platform to share videos and photos, recently announced a pause on the development of a kids version of the app. The decision was made after concerns from parents, activists and lawmakers. But more documents have revealed that it was not just Instagram, Facebook too was actively trying to increase its own popularity among pre-teens, reported the Wall Street Journal.
According to internal documents accessed by WSJ, the company had formed a study group to review pre-teens and the potential businesses opportunity that the age group presented. The company had set up a three-year plan to create and develop products for the group and commissioned several strategy papers on the same.
"They (pre-teens) are a valuable but untapped audience,” read one of the reports from Facebook from last year.
The company had recently been facing increasing criticism from parents and lawmakers over reveals from the WSJ that the company knew that its Instagram platform was 'toxic' for teens. Facebook has essentially turned a blind eye to the knowledge that Instagram was often the direct cause of anxiety and depression, to the point of suicidal ideation.
The social media company had been planning on introducing a kids version of Instagram so that it could stay clear of the legal and regulatory problems that plague tech companies over minor users.
The targeted focus of a yet ‘untapped’ demographic for a social media platform would also be a key factor in the decision to introduce a kids version of the app.
Facebook is not alone in making kids versions of popular apps. YouTube and TikTok, two extremely popular apps with pre-teens, have their own versions of their apps for kids with strict parental control. But both have faced criticism, with YouTube being censured for its constant targeted advertising towards children on its app and TikTok for its content promoted towards minor users.
With increased pressure from Instagram, Snapchat and TikTok, which are much more popular than Facebook among teens, the company was trying to find ways to market itself to pre-teens so that they would become users of the full version of the app once they turned 13 and older.
"Our ultimate goal is messaging primacy with US tweens, which may also lead to winning with teens," one of the documents said.
While social media giants try to onboard teenage audiences to their platforms, parents and lawmakers often have to devise ways to protect the privacy of children and to keep them protected from predators online. With children often lying about their birthdates to register on social media, and even dating platforms in some cases, Facebook maintains that developing a kids version of such apps is the best possible solution.
(Edited by : Shoma Bhattacharjee)
First Published: IST