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Is Facebook Developing an Instagram for Kids?

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Illustration of a child online and text about online safety for children, By Global Reach

Posted on 03/24/2021 at 03:58 PM

Instagram Leadership Considering Privacy and Safety Concerns for Younger Users

On March 18th, BuzzFeed News reported that Instagram may be planning on expanding its market to children under thirteen. Dialogue taken from an internal company post suggests that user safety may be a leading factor in the decision to move forward with development. On March 16th, just days before the internal post was shared, Instagram published a blog highlighting new safety features

Regarding children under thirteen­­­­­­ (currently prohibited from creating an account), Instagram wrote, “we know that young people can lie about their date of birth.” To keep the platform safe, Instagram is planning on a two-step approach: using machine learning to verify user age at the time of registration and redirecting underage users to a designated age-appropriate platform.

Responding to the BuzzFeed News article, Adam Mosseri (head of Instagram) tweeted:

The internal message shared with BuzzFeed News was from Vishal Shah, Instagram’s vice president of product. The message reads: “We will be building a new youth pillar within the Community Product Group to focus on two things: (a) accelerating our integrity and privacy work to ensure the safest possible experience for teens and (b) building a version of Instagram that allows people under the age of 13 to safely use Instagram for the first time.”

Facebook Reflects on Options for Parents

In an email to Vox Media, Facebook Representative Joe Osborn wrote, “Right now, there aren't many options for parents, so we're working on building additional products- like we did with Messenger Kids- that are suitable for kids, managed by parents. We're exploring bringing a parent-controlled experience to Instagram to help kids keep up with their friends, discover new hobbies and interests, and more."

Despite these claims from Facebook, Instagram has not made an official product announcement regarding an upcoming platform for children under thirteen. Unlike most social media platforms, apps designed for children are subject to the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). The act exists to regulate the collection, use, and disclosure of personal information regarding users younger than thirteen. According to the FTC’s COPPA Compliance Guide, online services include:

  • Network-connected games

  • Social networking activities

  • Purchasing goods or services online, including in-app purchases

  • Online advertisements

  • Platforms sharing online content

  • Internet-connected mobile apps

  • Internet-connected toys and gaming platforms

  • Smart speakers and voice assistants

  • Voice-over-Internet protocol services

  • Internet-enabled location-based services

With careful consideration for how data is collected from children, understanding how to comply with COPPA is a vital part of the application design process. General data protection regulation must also be a key consideration for social media marketers as well as website developers.

Graphic illustrating the threat of big data collection

For many children growing up in the digital age, learning to use smart devices and connect with friends online is as fundamental as learning to ride a bike or pick out their own clothes.  Unfortunately, many online service providers have low barriers for children to disclose personal information, and high barriers for parents to understand privacy policies. 

With the prospect of a new Instagram option for children, what can parents do to stay informed and protect their children’s personal information? Checking the privacy policy can be a parent’s first line of defense when considering an online service for their child.

The Common Sense Privacy Program gave Messenger Kids a 68% overall score, earning the kids app a 'Warning' rating. The program evaluates privacy policies based on several criteria, each graded out of 100%. Some notable areas of concern for Messenger Kids include Ads and Tracking (20%), Data Sold (35%), and Data Security (40%). In contrast, Messenger Kids scored well in Data Safety (90%) and Data Rights (95%).  

As of July 2020, Instagram earned a 57% overall score, with Data Security (30%), Data Sold (30%), and Parental Consent (20%) being notable areas of concern.  Parents and professionals should keep an eye out for The Common Sense Privacy Program in the wake of an Instagram option for children. While Instagram’s potential expansion draws additional attention to kids, it is a good reminder for adults to evaluate (or at least read) a service provider’s privacy policy and terms of service before checking the ‘agree’ box.  

The Role of GDPR Standards in Protecting Your Privacy

Global Reach proudly complies with the stricter GDPR standards, which exist to provide consumers with control over the collection, storage, and use of their personal data. With tightening concerns about privacy and security, brands need to be sure that those who visit their website or utilize their online services are protected. 

When it comes to data protection, an ounce of prevention beats a pound of cure.  For companies looking to build and maintain trust with their customers, getting your website GDPR compliant is a huge step in the right direction and Global Reach can get you there.

Click here to see similar articles from Global Reach about online safety and security.

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