A planned “Instagram experience” for children under-13 called “Instagram Kids” has been suspended after significant backlash from parents.
The plan was originally conceived after Facebook – which owns Instagram – noted that many children were able to easily circumvent the site’s age limit of 13. While officially one has to be 13 or older to create an Instagram account, many younger children are able to simply lie about their age and create an account regardless.
According to Adam Mosseri, head of Instagram, the company believed it was better to have a version of Instagram for 10 to 12-year-olds, rather “than relying on an app’s ability to verify the age of kids who are too young to have an ID.”
“The reality is that kids are already online,” he added.
“We started this project to address an important problem seen across our industry: kids are getting phones younger and younger, misrepresenting their age, and downloading apps that are meant for those 13 or older.
“We firmly believe that it’s better for parents to have the option to give their children access to a version of Instagram that is designed for them — where parents can supervise and control their experience.”
While the project is paused, Mosseri says that Instagram will take “time to work with parents, experts, policymakers and regulators, to listen to their concerns, and to demonstrate the value and importance of this project for younger teens online today.”
In April of this year, however, a letter to Mark Zuckerberg by the Campaign for a Commercial-free Childhood, signed by 99 children’s rights groups and individuals, argued that the project would be potentially harmful to children.
“A growing body of research demonstrates that excessive use of digital devices and social media is harmful to adolescents,” the letter read.
“Instagram, in particular, exploits young people’s fear of missing out and desire for peer approval to encourage children and teens to constantly check their devices and share photos with their followers. The platform’s relentless focus on appearance, self-presentation, and branding presents challenges to adolescents’ privacy and wellbeing.”
The letter continued: “Younger children are even less developmentally equipped to deal with these challenges, as they are learning to navigate social interactions, friendships, and their inner sense of strengths and challenges during this crucial window of development.
“Moreover, young children are highly persuadable by algorithmic prediction of what they might click on next, and we are very concerned about how automated decision making would determine what children see and experience on a kids’ Instagram platform.”
The point was also made that under-13s who are already using the older version of Instagram would be unlikely to migrate to a new “babyish” version.
Instagram says the project has been paused while the company engages in dialogue with parents and lawmakers about what they would like to see in the app.