People under 13 can’t sign up for Instagram because of federal privacy law, but that doesn’t actually stop most kids from signing up. Lying about your age online is an easy thing to do!
But Instagram says they have come up with a solution — that might also get some other kids interested and engaged at an earlier age. They’re looking into creating a platform called Instagram Youth.
“There is clearly a large number of people under the age of 13 who would want to use a service like Instagram. We currently do not authorize them to do that,” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said at a congressional hearing in March. And it’s true: According to a report from the nonprofit Thorn, 40% of kids surveyed under the age of 13 already use Instagram. Zuckerberg’s solution is to create an Instagram for kids, called Instagram Youth, with extra parental controls. We don’t know a ton about how the new platform would actually work, and so far, it’s just an idea. But it’s an idea many people consider to be bad.
We don’t know a ton about how the new platform would actually work, and so far, it’s just an idea. But it’s an idea many people consider to be bad.
Part of that is because it’s not entirely clear what the real driving force is behind the decision to get kids under the age of 13 on a social media platform. It’s likely a combination of keeping kids off of Instagram for adults and pulling people into the social media fold at a younger and younger age. And perhaps it is not a coincidence that this comes at a time in which young people are less likely to use Instagram in comparison to Snapchat or TikTok — even though all three have age limits, .
Recently, asked Facebook to please not do this. They said a social media platform specifically for preteens could have detrimental health effects on children, and they cited Facebook’s less-than-lovely history of failing to protect users — particularly children — on its platform. Blythe Winslow, the cofounder of everyschool.org, a nonprofit that advises schools on how to use technology, that social media could be linked to the increase of suicide rates, anxiety, and depression, and the decline of creativity and empathy.
And having an option for kids doesn’t mean kids will want to use it. The biggest drawback for Sofia, an 11-year-old in New York who uses TikTok and Snapchat, is that she doesn’t want Instagram Youth — she just wants regular Instagram.
“I mostly want to get it because my sisters got it at this age and I think I just want to get Instagram because … it looks cool,” Sofia said. “And I want to get on the Instagram my sisters are already on because they got it at my age, and when I was younger, I always wanted it. And I just want to see what it’s like — like what they’re doing on it.”
She said she wouldn’t even be interested in downloading an Instagram Youth if it was available to her. “I want to see what Instagram for older people is like.” She wants to follow her favorite TikTokkers and celebrities, and fears that a platform made for kids won’t allow her the same ability to do that as one for adults.
“I want to see what Instagram for older people is like.”
Sofia’s mom, Patty, doesn’t want Sofia on Instagram just yet because of the possible mental ramifications. She thinks Instagram Youth has the potential to be a great idea, but doesn’t see it sticking. She told Mashable one of her older daughters tried Facebook Messenger for kids, but it only lasted about a month or two before her daughter got bored of it.
“I would let her try [Instagram Youth],” Patty said. “Do I think it would keep her attention? I’m not sure.”
Delilah, a 12-year-old in New York, told Mashable that she would prefer using TikTok than any other social media apps, but her parents won’t let her.
“I hated [TikTok] and I banned it after kind of seeing some of the suggested videos and ads,” Delilah’s mom, Jamie, told Mashable. “And I offered Instagram as a compromise, because I thought it was better than what she might see on TikTok. And she was more than happy to. She said, ‘Okay. Yeah, sure.'”
And even though Delilah has regular Instagram now, she says she’d be down to get Instagram Youth, instead, if it was available.
“I would definitely want to get an Instagram for kids,” she told Mashable. “Like if they had one, then I would definitely download it because it seems like a cool opportunity to meet people my age… and might have similar interests to me.”
And Jamie, Delilah’s mom, agrees. While she says Delilah is “clearly not of the age” to be using Instagram or Facebook, that shows their safety precautions aren’t all there.
“If I was going to agree to allow her on a platform like [Instagram Youth], I almost expect the security to be much better than it seems to be with the platforms that already exist,” Jamie said. “Just because if somebody who shouldn’t be messaged her now, it would be like, ‘Okay, well, that’s an issue that we could expect because she’s supposed to be of a certain age and we’ve breached that side of the contract.’ But if the reverse were true and she was on a kid’s Instagram and she’s getting unwanted messages or things like that, I’d be a little bit more concerned.”
While Sofia says she would be turned off by an Instagram Youth because she worries she wouldn’t be able to chat with people older than her — like her sisters — Delilah doesn’t have the same hesitations.
“I might feel kind of uncomfortable talking with people who are older than me,” she said. “So it’s almost like a plus.”
And the additional regulations, she thinks, would make the platform more enjoyable. “I think it would mostly make it more pleasant because it would be easier to know that it was trustworthy and you weren’t going to see anything bad,” Delilah said.
“I think it’s mainly a good idea because you can talk with people your own age and make new friends and stuff,” Delilah said. “But I think that it might be hard to regulate and make sure that people on there are below 13 or are kids and pre-teens.”
That appears to be something Facebook will have to tackle, too.