New social media app aimed at kids has Colorado AG and parents worried

Problem Solvers

DENVER (KDVR) — Keeping kids safe online is a challenge in the constantly evolving digital world. That’s why Scarlett Land, a Denver area mom, has a strict policy for her three teenagers.

“They’re not allowed on it at all right now. We’re kind of in discussions,” said Land.

She says she’d like to keep them off all platforms until they’re at least 16-years-old. But her daughters, Melia and Meara, feel the pressure from their peers to join sooner.

“People bring up random social media stuff like ‘oh, did you see this on TikTok?’ or ‘hey, what’s your snap?’,” said Melia. 

Land says she’d like to slowly introduce them to social media platforms before they turn 18. She says that way, she’ll be able to monitor what they plan to post.

“I’m scared that they’re going to post something that will always be out there forever and they can’t get past it,” said Land.

She says the idea of a social media platform targeted specifically for kids still raises some concerns.
Facebook announced earlier this year it’s working on a version of its Instagram app for kids under 13. Technically, kids are not allowed to use the regular app due to federal privacy laws. 

Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser sent a bipartisan letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, outlining concerns over the proposed Instagram for kids. The letter asks specifically how Facebook will track and collect kids’ information and for what purpose. 

Weiser says the Child Online Protection Act is clear on what’s legal and what’s not when it comes to gathering kids’ data.

“If you’re under 13 years old, you should not be tracked without parents’ knowledge or consent. That’s critical. If you’re going to market to kids — parents need to know about it,” said Weiser.

The Colorado Attorney General is also encouraging parents to talk to their kids about safe internet usage in a public service announcement released earlier this year.

Dr. Sheryl Ziegler, a child psychotherapist, says most kids are not emotionally mature enough to handle the pressures of social media until they’re at least age 13.

“Basically, you’re putting your child in a situation that they have to try to conquer something that is addictive,” said Ziegler, “They are exposed to images, messages, people trolling them, social dynamics that are really difficult to manage.”

Ziegler says parents should take a balanced approach when introducing their kids to social media. She recommends first focusing on the positive aspects of the platform.

“It’s going to be so fun, you’re going to be connected with people. Those are all great things. So what could be the downside? And then let them lead that conversation with telling you what they imagine, maybe what they’ve heard and you help fill in the blanks,” said Ziegler.

She also recommends having a written social media contract outlining clear expectations for your child and utilizing online resources like Common Sense Media.

“I do feel like the longer parents can wait, the more they can prepare their child, the more they can talk about the positives of it and also just model for them that there needs to be a sense of balance,” said Ziegler.

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