Instagram’s attempt to create a child-friendly social media platform has been put on pause as of Monday, September 27. The announcement was made in an Instagram blog post with no indication of when the project will resume.
The project was put on a sudden halt to grant Instagram more time to spend researching before creating their children’s application. They claim they will spend their break consulting 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” (Instagram Blog).
A social media app designed for children is crucial in this era where more and more children have access to technology and are finding themselves on applications, like Instagram, that are intended for an older age group. Risking children’s early exposure to not only inappropriate content, but also the toxic nature of social media if used improperly.
The Instagram app is intended for users thirteen and older and asks the user to confirm if they are of age before creating an account. However, it is incredibly easy for children to bypass this confirmation by stating that they are of age when prompted. There is no requirement to see identification that proves they are of age, granting them instant access into the app after the age confirmation is complete.
Instagram is developing its children’s app to allow children aged ten to twelve that already have access to the internet a safe social media application to join. It will include age-appropriate content and features and will allow parents to monitor their children’s usage of the app and restrict their time on it.
Facebook, the company that owns Instagram, has experience creating children’s applications with their Messenger Kids app. The children’s version of their messenger app is intended for users aged six to twelve years old, and a parent or guardian must create an account for their child that is linked to their own messenger account.
This app allows children to communicate with friends and relatives that are approved through their parent’s Messenger account. But a parent cannot access their children’s chats from their own Messenger account, all chats are only available on the children’s account.
Explicit content is prevented from entering Messenger Kids conversations since “Special proactive detection safety filters prevent children from sharing nudity, sexual content or violence, while a dedicated support team will respond quickly to reported or flagged content” (Tech Crunch). A system that will most likely also be implemented in the Instagram Kids app to prevent inappropriate content from being shared.
Despite the indefinite pause on the Instagram Kids app, former Facebook employee Frances Haugen stated she would be surprised if they did not continue to work on Instagram Kids (CNBC Television). Considering Facebook’s experience working on children’s apps and with no current social media application targeted towards tweens on the app market.
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