As terrible ideas go, Instagram for kids is up there with lunchbox lager and power tools for toddlers. In March, Buzzfeed reported on Facebook’s plans to develop a product for those too young to sign up to Instagram officially, as the platform requires users to be at least 13.
A company post cited “youth work as a priority for Instagram”, which sounds sinister even from the empire of Mark Zuckerberg, whose mission in life is seemingly to make Bond villains appear cuddly. Facebook says it will allow the company to focus on privacy and safety for children.
Last week, an international coalition of children’s health advocates, brought together by the Boston-based, non-profit Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, disagreed and wrote an open letter to Zuckerberg urging the company to drop its plans. “While collecting valuable family data and cultivating a new generation of Instagram users may be good for Facebook’s bottom line, it will likely increase the use of Instagram by young children who are particularly vulnerable to the platform’s manipulative and exploitative features,” it said.
Heart emoji, thumbs-up emoji. The ethical issues involved are vast and mindboggling; one can only wonder how targeted advertising would work for users with no income, though I’m sure Nick Clegg will be on hand to mount a robust defence. There is something quietly devastating about giving children a platform that deliberately thrives on self-consciousness in its many insidious forms. Maybe it is naive of me to expect that children will have any period of freedom from wondering “but how will it/I look?”, but surely we should at least try to maintain that for as long as possible.
I am an adult and I know Instagram is bad for me. It manipulates me into buying things I don’t care about, makes me compare myself unfavourably to other people and wastes a colossal amount of time. Yet I still use it daily. And my complaints are minor; last week, Instagram said it had fixed a “mistake” in its new search functionality that recommended search terms such as “appetite suppressants” and “fasting” to users with eating disorders.
Many of my friends have deleted the app and check it only on their desktops, because they don’t trust themselves not to fall into the endless scroll. Perhaps children do have more self-control but we shouldn’t be asking them to show it.
Tom Rhodes: MasterChef was a triumph, even without all the trimmings
After refreshing a search for “MasterChef final when on” almost hourly since the weekend, we were finally served us up the last course of the series on Wednesday, the BBC having postponed it for several days following the death of Prince Philip. The winner, Tom Rhodes, fully deserved his crown, even though his olive oil ice-cream dessert, with salt and an added drizzle of oil, was the very definition of having to take the judges’ word for it.
Before the competition, Rhodes had been a restaurant manager at a Newcastle branch of Nando’s and he said that while furloughed he decided to take a chance on applying for MasterChef. It seems remarkable that he was only an amateur cook, given the level of his talent, and it felt neat that he won a series filmed during Covid.
The usual MasterChef tasks lean heavily on a functional, thriving restaurant industry, which meant they had to be tweaked and adjusted. There was no cooking for crowds of workers in canteens or customers in fancy dining establishments, and certainly no trip to glamorous locations to try making the local cuisine. The contestants did, however, have to cook for critics and chefs, again and again, which I think made it a far tougher challenge.
To make a series of MasterChef this entertaining during such unsettled times was deeply impressive. Much as I enjoyed the adapted version, I hope that, for the industry’s sake, the next series involves cooking for punters and, for the viewers’ sake, that contestants stop trying to cook do a rack of lamb in the space of an hour.
Yuh-Jung Youn: now that was what I call an acceptance speech
Ordinarily, the film Baftas tend to tee up the Oscars and can be a predictable red carpet opportunity for the usual suspects but, as with most occasions in 2021, this year’s ceremony did not quite stick to the plan. It might have been the vague air of scrappiness – can somebody check if the wifi router in Hollywood needs turning off and on again? – or it might have been the fact that there were some genuine surprise winners, but I felt more fondly towards the Baftas this year than I have for a long time.
As it was largely Zoom-based, with an exception made for in-person presenters, including my new favourite stand-up comedian Hugh Grant, there was a slight delay between a winner’s name being called and the recipient hearing it, which emphasised the shock, and was oddly delightful. But the speech given by Yuh-Jung Youn, who won best supporting actress for her role in Minari, stole the evening. “Every award is meaningful, but this one, especially to be recognised by British people, known as very snobbish people – they approve me as a good actor, so I’m very very happy,” she said. This should set the bar for all acceptance speeches from now on.
• Rebecca Nicholson is an Observer columnist