Statement by Dr. Terry Brooks, executive director of Kentucky Youth Advocates
LOUISVILLE, KY – Mental health, cyber bullying, and safety online are among the top concerns for families, schools, law enforcement, and child advocates prior to the COVID-19 pandemic and especially now as our kids must navigate the virtual world more regularly. With the announcement from Facebook to launch an Instagram for kids, those concerns will amplify for many.
When used properly, social media can provide children and families with positive social networks and opportunities for learning. Yet, it can also bring risks such as sleep issues, distractions from off-line activities, and exposure to inappropriate content and interactions. According to the latest Kentucky Incentives for Prevention (KIP) survey, 13 percent of 6th graders have experienced bullying electronically. The survey also reveals that over 9,000 Kentucky students had attempted suicide. A focus on youth mental health and online activity is as important as ever.
As smartly mentioned in the bipartisan letter from the National Association of Attorneys General that urges Facebook to abandon its plans to launch a version of Instagram for children under the age of 13, research demonstrates that social media can be harmful to the physical, emotional, and mental well-being of children. There are rapidly worsening concerns about cyberbullying on Instagram, child and sex predators use the platform to target children, and children are too young to navigate the complexities of what they encounter online, including inappropriate content and relationships with strangers.
The reality is that for children and youth across the commonwealth and the nation, learning, finding entertainment, and socially interacting online has become the norm, especially through the course of the pandemic. The continued leadership of Governor Andy Beshear and Attorney General Daniel Cameron on cyber safety for our children are needed to hold Facebook accountable as conversations on this new social media platform progress.
About Kentucky Youth Advocates
Kentucky Youth Advocates believes all children deserve to be safe, healthy, and secure. As THE independent voice for Kentucky’s children, we work to ensure policymakers create investments and policies that are good for children. Learn more at www.kyyouth.org.