Instagram for kids? What could possibly go wrong?!
A report from BuzzFeed says that parent company Facebook is working on a new version of Instagram for child and tween users. Currently, Instagram users have to be 13 or older.
Vishal Shah, Instagram’s vice president of product, reportedly announced the initiative in a Facebook post for employees Thursday. He also said that Instagram would be working to improve privacy and safety for its teen users, too.
“I’m excited to announce that going forward, we have identified youth work as a priority for Instagram and have added it to our H1 priority list,” Shah said. “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 confirmed the reports to Techskylight in an emailed statement and added that a version of Instagram for kids would be a “parent-controlled experience.”
“Increasingly kids are asking their parents if they can join apps that help them keep up with their friends,” a Facebook company spokesperson said. “Right now there aren’t many options for parents, so we’re working on building additional products — as 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.”
As the BuzzFeed report points out, the move is eyebrow-raising considering Instagram has historically had a hard time preventing teens from experiencing bullying or predatory behavior by adults on the platform, though it has added features over the years to address these issues. Parent advocacy groups have already asked Facebook to discontinue its Messenger Kids product since social media has been shown to negatively impact child development.
Since there are strict laws that govern the ways advertisers and social networks can handle kids’ data, Messenger Kids, as well as YouTube Kids, do not collect or target the same advertising data that the adult platforms do. But a big criticism of these platforms is that they serve as pipelines to convert children into future customers.
The photo-sharing app Instagram began as a way to show off a filtered version of your life, and eventually became a multimedia tentacle of Facebook’s advertising empire. Totally an appropriate place for kids, right?!