WSJ: Facebook’s Ambitions with Preteen Audience Goes Far Beyond ‘Instagram for Kids’

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A new report from the Wall Street Journal claims that Facebook’s attempts to attract younger users to its platforms go beyond the company’s recently abandoned “Instagram for Kids” project. Leaked documents reportedly show that the company formed a team to study preteens and set a three-year goal to develop more products for them.

The Wall Street Journal reports in an article titled “Facebook’s Effort to Attract Preteens Goes Beyond Instagram Kids, Documents Show,” that as Facebook has faced intense criticism in recent weeks for the effect of its social media platforms on teen users, new documents show that the company has been spending years developing projects to attract preteens to its platforms in ways that were previously unreported.

Reports from the Wall Street Journal have shed new light on Facebook’s view of its younger users. In a report titled “Facebook Knows Instagram Is Toxic for Teen Girls, Company Documents Show,” the WSJ claimed that Facebook wass aware that its photo-sharing app Instagram can have a negative effect on the body image of young women.

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Mark Zuckerberg throwing spears (Mark Zuckerberg/Facebook)

The WSJ wrote:

“Thirty-two percent of teen girls said that when they felt bad about their bodies, Instagram made them feel worse,” the researchers said in a March 2020 slide presentation posted to Facebook’s internal message board, reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. “Comparisons on Instagram can change how young women view and describe themselves.”

“We make body image issues worse for one in three teen girls,” said one slide from 2019, summarizing research about teen girls who experience the issues.

“Teens blame Instagram for increases in the rate of anxiety and depression,” said another slide. “This reaction was unprompted and consistent across all groups.”

Following the report, lawmakers called on Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to abandon plans to create an “Instagram for Kids,” app. The lawmakers stated: “Children and teens are uniquely vulnerable populations online, and these findings paint a clear and devastating picture of Instagram as an app that poses significant threats to young people’s wellbeing.” The letter was signed by Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA), and Representatives Kathy Castor (D-FL) and Lori Trahan (D-MA). Facebook has since abandoned plans for the project.

Now, a new report from the Wall Street Journal alleges that internal Facebook documents show that the company formed a team to study preteens and set a three-year goal to develop more products for them. Facebook went as far as to commission strategy papers about the long-term business opportunities that potential younger users could provide. One document from 2020 stated: “Why do we care about tweens? They are a valuable but untapped audience.”

According to the documents, competition from rivals including Spachat and TikTok is a motivating factor behind its work. Facebook’s approach to attracting younger users is likely to be addressed this Thursday at a Senate subcommittee hearing which will likely probe the effect of Facebook’s Instagram photo-sharing platform on mental health.

The Wall Street Journal writes:

Over the past five years, Facebook has made what it called “big bets” on designing products that would appeal to preteens across its services, according to a document from earlier this year.
In more than a dozen studies over that period, the documents show, Facebook has tried to understand which products might resonate with children and “tweens” (ages 10 through 12), how these young people view competitors’ apps and what concerns their parents.

“With the ubiquity of tablets and phones, kids are getting on the internet as young as six years old. We can’t ignore this and we have a responsibility to figure it out,” said a 2018 document labeled confidential. “Imagine a Facebook experience designed for youth.”

Read more at the Wall Street Journal here.

Lucas Nolan is a reporter for Breitbart News covering issues of free speech and online censorship. Follow him on Twitter @LucasNolan or contact via secure email at the address lucasnolan@protonmail.com

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