Overview: Facebook is reportedly in the early stages of developing a version of Instagram that’s more child-friendly and accessible to kids under 13. It’s not clear when it might be available, but there are substantial concerns both around psychological impact and Facebook’s poor performance record protecting children.
Why Is Facebook Developing a “Kid-Friendly” Instagram?
Most parents know that the requirement that a user be at least 13 years old to use Instagram is largely reliant on the honor system. The company has repeatedly run into problems where, for example, a parent registers for an Instagram account and then turns the password over to their kids.
This isn’t just awkward for the platform; it’s illegal. Under COPPA, the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, sites aren’t allowed to gather certain types of information about kids. Even if accounts have been started under false pretenses, they may still be liable. That said, a “kid-friendly” Instagram may cause even more problems.
Facebook’s Poor Track Record With Child Privacy
Facebook already has a problem with safeguarding the privacy of children. The platform has to purge millions of abusive images of children every year, for example, making it, by far, the biggest — albeit unintentional — purveyor of those images on the internet.
Outside of the criminal concerns, there are technical issues. For example, in 2019, a version of Facebook Messenger was created for a “kids only” space. A glitch put kids into the wider Facebook Messenger sphere, where they were interacting easily with adults. The company addressed the problem by closing those chats, claiming that only a small number of users were affected. Since then, the company has merged the direct messaging functions of Facebook and Instagram, and it’s unclear whether this merger would extend to any “Instagram for Kids” software as well.
Similarly, hanging over all of this is the issue of whether Instagram is good for anyone, kids included. Instagram tends to encourage “endless scrolling,” the mental impact of which remains unclear. Add to this the typical concerns of any social platform, such as cyberbullying, and some parents may find it hard to see the value of an Instagram for kids.
How to Protect Kids On Facebook and Instagram
Regardless of how the planned Instagram for kids plays out, the best steps for parents to take are to create rules around social media and make sure to enforce them.
With any social media apps, parents can make sure that they’re configured to limit who can contact your kids. They should also teach their children how to block, mute, and report anybody they don’t want in their online space. Set accounts to private, and set up rules with your kids about which friend requests they can accept.
Set time limits around how much kids can access social media, especially sites like Instagram. Parental control software can help by setting screen time limits both in general and around certain apps. Educate kids about how these sites can suck kids in and keep them scrolling. Teach them to be mindful of how they use social media and the images they find there.
Whether or not your kids are social butterflies online, safety should come first. Parental control software can help you keep track of what your kids are exposed to online. To learn more about how Screen Time can help, try it for free!