40% of kids under 13 already use Instagram and some are experiencing abuse and sexual solicitation, a report finds, as the tech giant considers building an Instagram app for kids

Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg in 2019.

  • The report suggests that kids under 13 are already active on the platforms.
  • As Facebook and Instagram’s rules stand now, children under that age are not allowed on the apps.
  • The report comes after 40 state attorneys general urged Facebook to scrap plans for Instagram for kids.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Forty-five percent of kids under the age of 13 already use Facebook daily while 40% of children surveyed in that age group use Instagram, according to a report from the nonprofit Thorn.

The study, first reported on by Casey Newton for The Verge, comes after 40 state attorneys general wrote a letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg urging him to abandon the company’s plans to build a version of Instagram for kids under the age of 13. Thorn surveyed 1,000 minors between the ages of nine and 17 in 2020 and released its findings in the new study.

As Facebook’s and Facebook-owned Instagram’s rules stand now, kids under the age of 13 are not permitted to join the platforms without adult supervision. But the report suggests that children under that age are already on the apps, and that the apps that are absent of protections fit for kids in that age group.

Thirty-six percent of kids under the age of 13 who were surveyed said they encountered potentially harmful experiences online, including sexual interaction, according to the report. And 26% of kids surveyed reported potentially harmful experiences on Instagram. Instagram, as well as Snapchat, saw the highest concentration of sexually explicit interactions between minors and adults, per Thorn.

In a statement shared with Insider, a Facebook spokesperson said “We’ve made meaningful progress on these issues, including restricting Direct Messages between teens and adults they don’t follow on Instagram, helping teens avoid unwanted chats with adults, making it harder for adults to search for teens, improving reporting features, and updating our child safety policies to include more violating content for removal.”

Children under the age of 13 were also active on Snapchat and Tiktok, and 78% of those surveyed were using YouTube on a daily basis. Many kids between the ages of nine and 17 received abuse, harassment, and sexual solicitation from peers and adults on the platforms, according to Thorn’s research. Minors in the LGBTQ community were found to experience more harmful experiences online than non-LGBTQ kids.

The letter sent to Zuckerberg this week emphasized the role that social media has on the physical, emotional, and mental wellbeing of children “who are not equipped to navigate the challenges of having a social media account.”

Read more: Mark Zuckerberg outlined new tools Instagram is building to help creators make money

Zuckerberg downplayed the harm that social media poses to kids during a March Congressional hearing, though he acknowledged that he was “aware of the issues” surrounding children’s health online.

Zuckerberg said, “There is clearly a large number of people under the age of 13 who would want to use a service like Instagram,” as Mashable reported.

Facebook’s competitors have makes similar moves to cater to that age group. YouTube, which is owned by Google, launched its YouTube Kids platform in 2015 for children under 13 and was reportedly investigated by the Federal Trade Commission in 2019 over its handling of kids’ videos. Despite the kid-centric version, the majority of children had been using the regular YouTube app to access the service, as Insider reported in 2019.

Read the original article on Business Insider

40 state attorneys general sent a letter to Mark Zuckerberg urging Facebook to abandon plans to build an Instagram app for kids under 13

mark zuckerberg facebook
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

  • 40 attorneys general are urging Facebook to scrap plans to build an Instagram app for kids under 13.
  • In a letter, the AGs cited Facebook’s poor track record of protecting kids online.
  • They also cited research showing how social media harms kids’ physical, emotional, and mental health.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

A group of 40 state attorneys general wrote a letter to CEO Mark Zuckerberg urging Facebook to abandon its plans for an Instagram app for kids under the age of 13, accusing Facebook of having “historically failed to protect the welfare of children on its platforms.”

The letter, viewed by Insider, emphasized the role that social media has on the physical, emotional, and mental well-being of children, “who are not equipped to navigate the challenges of having a social media account.” That includes a lack of understanding around privacy and deciding what is appropriate to post in such a permanent nature.

Zuckerberg downplayed social media’s harm to children during a March hearing before Congress, though he acknowledged that he was “aware of the issues” surrounding kids’ health online.

“There is clearly a large number of people under the age of 13 who would want to use a service like Instagram,” Zuckerberg said, according to Mashable.

But the letter from the attorneys general claims that “strong data and research” shows a “link between young people’s use of social media and an increase in mental distress, self-injurious behavior, and suicidality.”

Read more: Mark Zuckerberg outlined new tools Instagram is building to help creators make money

“It appears that Facebook is not responding to a need, but instead creating one, as this platform appeals primarily to children who otherwise do not or would not have an Instagram account,” the attorneys general said in the letter. “In short, an Instagram platform for young children is harmful for myriad reasons.”

“As every parent knows, kids are already online,” A Facebook spokesperson told Insider. “We want to improve this situation by delivering experiences that give parents visibility and control over what their kids are doing.”

The company also said it’s working with experts in child safety and privacy and is committed to “not showing ads in any Instagram experience we develop for people under the age of 13.”

Instagram currently prohibits children under 13 from using it. It was first reported in March that Facebook was building on an Instagram app for kids 13 and under, a project led by the former head of YouTube Kids.

Facebook has faced scrutiny in the past over what critics say is its failure to police bullying, child sex abuse, and child exploitation online. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children said Facebook and Facebook-owned apps reported 20.3 million incidents of potential child abuse in 2020.

And in 2019, a privacy vulnerability allowed thousands of children using the company’s Messenger Kids platform to join chats with strangers.

Facebook’s competitors have also created kid-centric versions of their platforms and landed in hot water over what was seen as a failure to protect children online. YouTube Kids stood up in 2015 for kids under 13 and was investigated by the Federal Trade Commission in 2019 over its handling of children’s videos.

You can read the letter from the attorneys general in full below:

Read the original article on Business Insider

20 Utah schools reopened when COVID-19 rates were soaring, but only saw 5 new cases. Here’s how they protected students and teachers.

texas school reopening
Elementary school students walk to classes to begin their school day in Godley, Texas, Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2020.

  • Only 5 school-associated COVID-19 cases were detected among students and teachers exposed and tested across 20 schools in the district.
  • The rare school-associated infections were attributed to poor mask usage or close lunch seating.
  • Schools can reopen safely even when seating is 3 feet apart if other measures like masks are heeded, the CDC says.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Rates of COVID-19 transmission were high in Salt Lake County, Utah, this past December and January, but in one school district, they remained very low thanks to mitigation measures like mask-wearing, a March 19 report out of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found.

Specifically, only 0.7% of teachers and students who’d been in close contact with an infected peer or colleague contracted COVID-19 from them at school. None of the 20 schools analyzed experienced a coronavirus outbreak.

The authors say the report demonstrates how mitigation measures like mask wearing and restricting extra-curricular activities can make school reopenings safe – even, as was the case in the schools studied, kids can’t always sit a full six feet apart.

In accordance with this report and other studies, the CDC changed its physical distancing guidance for K-12 schools Friday, saying 3 feet of space is enough between students, in most circumstances.

The school-associated cases were traced to improper mask wearing or close seating at lunch

To conduct the study, CDC researchers looked at 20 K-6 schools in one Salt Lake County school district between December 3, 2020 and January 31, 2021.

They identified 1,041 students and teachers susceptible to COVID-19 who, while at school, were in close contact with 51 of their COVID-positive peers and colleagues. “Close contact” meant they’d been with the infected person, while contagious, for 15 minutes or more in a classroom, cafeteria, school bus, or at recess.

After testing 735 of the 1,041 contacts, the study authors found only 12 had contracted the disease, and only five had contracted it at school. In those school-associated cases, transmission seemed to occur because the infected person wasn’t wearing their mask properly or was sitting near someone at lunch.

Wearing masks and staggering breaks can prevent transmission even if some students and teachers are COVID-positive

The study authors credit the school’s mitigation strategies with preventing higher rates of spread and outbreaks in schools.

For example, students were put in cohorts where possible, and most schools staggered lunch, gym, and other activities like library use and art classes. They also limited, or made virtual, in-person extra-curriculars and events like sports, assemblies, performances, and field trips. 86% of teachers reported that their students always wore their masks, except when eating and drinking.

Such strategies proved successful, despite the fact that kids were spaced a median of 3 feet apart, and teachers often had closer than 6-feet interactions with their kids in small group settings without any plexiglass or other barrier.

Even when the school district loosened its quarantining guidance in mid-December – only requiring a close contact of an infected person to quarantine if one or both hadn’t been wearing masks – rates of school-associated COVID-19 cases didn’t change. That guidance shift led to over 1,200 student in-person learning days saved, the report says.

This could be a model for other schools

The study had some limitations. For one, the genome-sequencing technology to differentiate school-based transmission from community transmission wasn’t always available. Plus, some contacts of infectious people could have been missed, and some identified contacts may have already been unknowingly immune to COVID-19. The findings also can’t be applied to new COVID-19 variants that weren’t circulating in the Utah community at the time.

But the study authors say the Utah schools can serve as a model for others looking to resume in-person learning safely.

“When ≥6 ft distancing is not feasible,” they write, “schools in high-incidence communities can still limit in-school transmission by consistently using masks and implementing other important mitigation strategies.”

Read the original article on Business Insider

A 15-year-old dancer with long-haul COVID-19 now has COPD, ‘a disease of the elderly’

mental health illness depression anxiety headache migraine therapy
(Delaney DePue not pictured.)

  • Delaney DePue, 15, got COVID-19 last summer and still struggles to catch her breath. 
  • She was diagnosed with COPD, which is “considered a disease of the elderly.” 
  • She joins an increasingly visible group of young people that appear to have long-hauler symptoms. 
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Delaney DePue, a 15-year-old in Fort Walton Beach, Florida, used to train 20 hours a week for competitive dance. Now, even running errands can leave her short of breath, Kaiser Health News’s Carmen Heredia Rodriguez reported

Her downturn began after contracting COVID-19 last summer, a condition from which she still hasn’t seemed to recover. Doctors have diagnosed her with chronic inflammatory lung disease, a condition researchers say is “considered a disease of the elderly” and is usually caused by smoking

While young people tend to fare well if exposed to the coronavirus, some do get seriously ill, and fewer die. And others, like DePue, are among a growing pool of so-called long haulers, or COVID-19 survivors who continue to battle wide-ranging symptoms, including fatigue, mental fog, severe body aches, heart palpitations, and even delirium. 

Health professionals don’t know exactly why these symptoms develop, or why some people with COVID-19 recover quickly and others are unwittingly it for the long haul.  

COPD gets progressively worse over time

COPD is an incurable, progressive disease that makes it difficult to breathe. People with it can experience wheezing, chest tightness, coughing, respiratory infections, and fatigue due to lung damage. 

It’s unusual in children because their lungs haven’t had the time to be damaged to that extent; typically, kids with COPD symptoms have asthma or cystic fibrosis, not COPD

But DePue’s case suggests COVID-19 may accelerate lung damage in some kids, as it does in some adults with the virus. One imaging study of people who’d died from COVID-19 found “persistent and extensive lung damage,” helping doctors better understand long haulers, Reuters reported

“The findings indicate that COVID-19 is not simply a disease caused by the death of virus-infected cells, but is likely the consequence of these abnormal cells persisting for long periods inside the lungs,” Mauro Giacca, a professor at King’s College London who co-led the work, said.

Severe illness is rare among children, but more data is needed

As of February 25, nearly 3.17 million children have tested positive for COVID-19, according to a report out of the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children’s Hospital Association. That’s 13.1% of the total cases among states who report by age. 

Most have no or mild symptoms, but around 2,000 have developed multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children, a potentially deadly issue involving a high fever and inflammation. Black and Hispanic kids represent most cases of serious illness or death from COVID-19. 

Enough of a subset of children have developed long-hauler complications that some hospitals are erecting clinics to help manage their symptoms and rule out other potential causes, Rodriguez reported. Clinics and “bootcamps” for adult long-haulers are opening up too

In both cases, patients and clinicians have more questions than answers. 

“There is an urgent need to collect more data on longer-term impacts of the pandemic on children,” the AAP and CHA report writes, “including ways the virus may harm the long-term physical health of infected children, as well as its emotional and mental health effects.”

Read the original article on Business Insider