Have you heard about Instagram for Kids?
In March 2021, Facebook reportedly made a jaw dropping announcement that it is working on a kid friendly Instagram app as the current Instagram policy does not allow kids under 13 to make an account on their platform. In their announcement, they also specified that the existing Instagram app will see some major changes which will keep in mind the safety and vulnerability of younger users.
Though the Instagram for Kids project is not officially confirmed yet by Facebook but it forced us to wonder, is this necessary?
Let us firstly see what changes Instagram is working on in its existing application.
What Will Be The Changes?
These changes will mainly focus on making kids mindful about who they are interacting with and making adult kid communication more safe. Instagram has announced these safety features in defence of allegations applied on it by more than billion users. These allegations were child bullying, kid’s interaction with online predators and adult content on Instagram. The safety features instagram announced to deal with these issues are :-
- Stricter rules in terms of age data while creating accounts, urging users to enter their real age while signing up.
- Personal messages and DM’s cannot be sent by adults to teens if the teen is not following them.
- Improving their attempt to make teens more mindful about who they are chatting with and on what topic as well as what content they are exchanging.
- Now, adults will have to struggle hard to search and follow young users.
- Encouraging teen users to safeguard their personal information by switching their account privacy to private.
- A Parent’s Guide has also been added which explains how to take out these safety measures.
Instagram has tried to update its security for teens but according to us, it is not enough. Most of their statements are aspirational but not strict enough to restrict users to be mindful. Moreover, it completely depends on teen itself how they are managing their Dms or the privacy of their accounts.
Now, as far as users below 13 are concerned, they cannot use the existing Instagram account legally. Rumor says, an app Instagram for Kids will be launched for them.
Instagram for Kids- Will it be any different ?
However, Facebook has not officially confirmed yet but sources like People, Buzzfeed have verified that this app is not just smoke and mirrors, Facebook is working on it. Well, the question is how will it look? Will it be any different from the existing Instagram app?
The Messenger Kids which is Facebook’s kids version is embodied with features which let parents control the contacts of kids. In Messenger Kids, parents can control with whom their children are chatting with. It’s likely that Instagram for kids will also involve similar parental controls which let parents decide whom their kid follows and get followed by. We imagine that explore tab, message requests and hashtags will be absent from this version as these are the features where the maximum danger for kids lies. But, these are only our imagination. Whether the real version will be mindful of bad effects of these features on kids or not is still a mystery. The best way to create a safer Instagram for Kids will be to let parents monitor everything from comments, Dms to content sharing.
Will this app really be safe for your children?
We can assume that Instagram will add kid friendly content and features in this app which will allow them to interact with only close friends approved by their parents but is it enough?
What about the FOMO your 11 year old son will experience when he sees a vacay picture of his classmate while he is sitting on a couch? Kids are most vulnerable to feelings like jealousy and insecurities. No matter how many filters you apply, you cannot save your kid from feeling inferior on social media.
In 2019, Messenger Kids underwent a so-called technical error and apparently thousands of kids were interacting with unapproved adults in group chats. Youtube Kids faced backlash after allowing troubling videos on their timeline. Does Instagram for Kids guarantee that it will not happen on their platform?
Moreover, what about social media addiction? Every social media app is addictive and Instagram for Kids will not be different. It will tempt kids to use their time in scrolling feed rather than doing something productive.
By applying various filters and privacy, it can save your kids from online predators but not from mental health problems. That is why, we do not think it is a good idea to launch a social media app for kids. Such apps restrict them from being themselves and tempt them to seek public acknowledgement. It is definitely not suitable for their age.
The Need Of The Hour
We believe kids do not need to be on social media apps like Instagram for Kids. Age 10-15 is the most crucial age for development. And, they should not waste this time gawking at their phones & searching random strangers. Rather, parents should motivate kids to use this time for their personal development by learning new things. A new social media app will only enhance their anxiety and make their mental health more crucial.
Moreover, the actual need of the hour is advancements in parental controls. Most of the teenagers are struggling with surging screen times and greater than ever online harassment cases. It has become necessary that parents help their kids by monitoring their activities with the best parental control software and apps like Bit Guardian Parental Control. Parenting is hard but the right tool can ease and safeguard yours as well your kid’s digital life.