With the growth of social media platforms, comes the growth of companies aiming to influence users through these platforms in hopes of creating lifetime users. Facebook, now known as Meta, is one of the biggest social media platforms along with Instagram. The company was created back in 2004 long long ago when social media wasn’t the household term that it is today.
No one ever imagined that social media would flourish into the pivotal instrument that it is in today’s world. The convenience of cell phones and social media apps has basically exposed us to be influenced right in the palm of our hands.
When reading Facebook’s “About” page, the minimum age to sign up for a Facebook and Instagram account in the United States is 13 years old. Seems young right? Well, not really. According to a CNN article discussing a Media Census Report, 56% of children between the ages of 8 and 18 have a social media account; with the average age of signing up for an account being 12.6 years old. So in actuality, children seem to be the majority of those who are on social media, which makes them susceptible to be easily persuaded by whatever is being published through these means.
With companies having such direct access to consumers, especially young children, comes a number of ethical issues.
Recently, Facebook has been under fire for hiring a new department of employees to create products that target an “untapped audience” of children under the age of 13. Back in 2018, a “confidential” document revealed Facebook’s plans to create a new social media platform exclusively for children under the age of 13, broken down into different age groups.
This idea was in the process of being developed even though recent research showed that social media platforms, like Facebook and Instagram, have negative effects on users’ mental health.
So why would such a large influential company do such a thing? For the profit of course.
Phones, iPads, and tablets are largely used products by young children, so the exposure and influence are at an all time high. This is where the ethical issue comes into play: taking advantage of an easily persuaded audience.
CEO of Common Sense Media, James Steyer said in an interview with NBC: “They [Facebook] need to focus on cleaning up their existing platforms instead of trying to hook more children to their addictive platforms at younger and younger ages.”
Facebook responded to this backlash by essentially stating that since the industry they’re in is so competitive and other companies would do the same thing, they stand by their decision to pursue this platform.
Companies have every right to get to know and target their customers, but if they are identified as too young to even use the platforms, they should not have specific services geared toward them. Instead of working to create a new platform for younger children in hopes of creating lifetime users, social media platforms like Facebook need to gear their focus toward creating safer platform for teenagers and young adults to use.