In many parts of the world, the ongoing pandemic has forced people indoors or, at the very least, reduced the amount of face-to-face social interactions. While teens and adults have flocked to social networks for their fix, younger kids are, at least legally, banned from such online forums. This age group, however, is also seen by many social networks and online platforms as a big and potentially profitable market and it’s not surprising to hear that Facebook’s Instagram is eying a version of its network made especially for very young users.
It was just this week that Instagram detailed what it was doing to protect its youngest users from harmful older users but its policies on who can legally use the network remain the same. Anyone under 13 is now allowed on Instagram but it’s also having a hard time keeping these kids out. That’s especially true these days as more and more kids are asking parents to join Instagram but the social network and its apps are ill-equipped to handle such young users.
Instead of just blocking them outright, what Instagram wants to do is to create a version of Instagram for kids instead, mirroring variants like YouTube Kids or Facebook’s own Messenger for Kids. This would give parents more control over the safety and privacy of their kids separate from the comparatively loose controls that the “grownup” versions have.
Naturally, the idea has ruffled not just a few feathers among privacy and child safety advocates for various reasons. For one, such a move would be seen as further encouraging the use of social networks especially at a dangerously formative stage in children’s development. There’s also the risk of these kids growing up hooked on such services and platforms which, of course, is a win for their owners, not the users.
And then there are the various instances in the past where bugs and hidden features ended up violating children’s privacy, not to mention several laws. There’s no assurance that it won’t happen with an Instagram for Kids either but, at least for now, the company says it has no detailed plans for it yet anyway.