The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

David Monahan, Fairplay,

Faith Leaders Call for Meta to Scrap Planned Instagram Kids

Religious leaders, citing threats to spiritual health and total wellbeing, join growing chorus asking Instagram to lay off of young audience


Today more than 75 religious leaders representing over 20 faiths and denominations sent a letter to Mark Zuckerberg calling on Meta to scrap plans to launch a version of Instagram for children under 13. In a letter sent on Safer Internet Day by advocacy group Fairplay and their Children's Screen Time Action Network, the leaders expressed urgent concern about Instagram luring millions of young users to a new habit, and spoke more broadly about the risks of children using social media at ever-younger ages. The new platform was put on "pause" by Meta last Fall in response to concerns of advocates, lawmakers and regulators.

"After much meditation and prayer," the leaders state in their letter, "we assert that social media platforms that target immature brains, practice unethical data mining, and are inspired by profit motives are not a tool for the greater good of children."

The leaders lament that "from the secular side, it is already well established that social media use poses emotional, physical, and psychological harms to children. From increases in depression, anxiety, suicide, sexualization, narcissism, access to pornography, loneliness, and cyberbullying to disastrous impacts on attention, sleep, and healthy development, it is undeniable that social media is irrevocably altering the landscape of childhood." Looking through a spiritual lens, the faith leaders point to "significant adverse impacts" which they say "directly influence our missions to serve families and promote their spiritual health, in turn affecting their total wellbeing and the welfare of our communities."

Last year, shortly after Facebook announced plans for Instagram Kids, Fairplay sent Zuckerberg a letter signed by a coalition of 100 public health advocates from around the world urging that the company scrap the idea. This spurred letters from members of Congress, an investigation by 44 state attorneys general, and growing public opposition to the plan, particularly after whistleblower Frances Haugen produced evidence in Congress that Facebook was aware of its toxic effect upon young users. In September, Facebook (now Meta) announced that they were pausing their plans to launch the kids' platform. But Adam Mosseri, the head of Instagram, continues to state publicly that the project is in development.

The leaders quote Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh: "If you crave acceptance and recognition and try to change yourself to fit what other people want you to be, you will suffer all your life. True happiness and true power lie in understanding yourself, accepting yourself, having confidence in yourself." The letter continues: "the more children internalize this truth, the less they will tend to chase trends of fast fashion, post about expensive vacations, or anxiously compare themselves to pictures of their friends."

Because of their "intense concern for the spiritual welfare of children," the leaders implored today that Instagram Kids "will serve as a catalytic gateway for young children to the already-documented problems adversely impacting teens, as well as a vast array of unforeseen issues as commercial culture further encroaches on the sanctity of childhood."

Daniel A. Weiner, Senior Rabbi at Temple De Hirsch Sinai, on why he signed the letter to Meta: "In a moment of increasing polarization, misinformation, and waning capacity for civil discourse---much of which has been initiated or exacerbated by social media--it is immoral, if not a kind of societal malpractice, to foster an even earlier on- ramp to this highway of peril with the advent of Instagram Kids."

Dr. Kutter Callaway, Fuller Theological Seminary, said: "As both a father of three young daughters and a psychological scientist, I cannot emphasize enough my desire to see Meta cease from creating a platform that their own data has shown will cause irreparable psychological, social, and spiritual damage to young people. To continue moving in this direction, knowing full well the ill effects of Instagram's algorithms, is nothing more than the raw pursuit of profit at the expense of society's most vulnerable population. If a net worth of $1 trillion is not enough, no amount will ever be."

Priya Amaresh, Hindu Chaplain, said "Social media has been a great platform for sharing information, connecting with people, and learning about unique things. However, as many things in society, too much involvement or addiction to something can be detrimental. Unfortunately, social media has become a phenomenon that usurps one's time, often creates competitiveness and anxieties, and a platform for spreading negative messages. Young minds are exposed to much more than they need or are ready for. It is important to give children opportunities to find joy or consolation within themselves, rather than through these mediums that pose challenges to their overall wellbeing. I join with fellow religious leaders to ask Mark Zuckerberg to heed our collective voice and cancel plans for Instagram Kids, for the sake of all children."

Fairplay, formerly known as Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, educates the public about commercialism's impact on kids' wellbeing and advocates for the end of child-targeted marketing. Fairplay organizes parents to hold corporations accountable for their marketing practices, advocates for policies to protect kids, and works with parents and professionals to reduce children's screen time.