Two stories in the media recently seem to me to reflect predatory behaviour by tech companies. The first is a story about an 8 year old boy from California who has been contracted to play Fortnite as a professional. He was paid US$33,000 and gifted a US$5000 computer. He can’t legally play competition Fortnite until he is 13 years old, so this company is paying him a retainer to keep playing their violent first-person shooter game on high rotation for the next three years at least.
The second story in the news is the announcement that Instagram is making a kids version, so that users under the age of 13 can have an account without violating the current age restriction. This is a pretty blatant attempt to recruit users to their platform at increasingly younger ages. There are so many repercussions to this idea that I almost don’t know where to start. My first thought is whether there will be a direct message function for the under 13s, and if so, can anyone slide into them? Imagine giving children, who haven’t had time to learn what’s appropriate and what’s not to post on the web, a tool that lets them post pictures of themselves. Then there’s the issue of instilling the idea that self-worth is bound up in ‘likes’. There will be upward comparisons, and young kids, especially girls, will inevitably be worried that they aren’t thin enough, or pretty enough, or sexy enough.
This behaviour is predatory, and it makes parents jobs even harder.