Many platform operators are concerned about the safety of children online. Now Facebook wants to create an Instagram for children and thus bind even the youngest to itself and its platforms.
Cybergrooming, nude photos and deadly Tik-Tok challenges: children are exposed to many dangers online. They are particularly fond of platforms such as Tik Tok and Instagram, which are actually only open to users over the age of 13 – although they can easily circumvent the age restriction by providing false information.
Instagram now wants to remedy this situation and build its own version for younger children, Buzzfeed News quotes from an internal letter from Vishal Shah, vice president of product at Instagram. Instagram for kids is intended to enable the youngest to use the platform safely for the first time, Shah writes further.
Facebook has taken know-how from Google
It’s not Facebook’s first attempt to create a safe space for kids. At the end of 2017, Facebook launched its Messenger Kids for six- to twelve-year-olds, which was supposed to be a safe alternative to regular Messenger.
But even that hasn’t always worked smoothly. In the summer of 2019, The Verge reported that Messenger allowed kids to chat with unapproved people.
For example, due to a technical error, young users were able to communicate with unauthorized chat partners in group chats. Normally, parents have to approve their children’s chat partners.
The new Instagram for kids is said to be the responsibility of Pavni Diwanji, according to Buzzfeed News. She has worked at Instagram parent Facebook since December 2020. Previously, she was responsible for children’s products at Google and oversaw the development of YouTube Kids, among other things.
Instagram is popular with kids
Instagram CEO Adam Mosseri told Buzzfeed News “more and more kids” want to use apps like Instagram. However, he said it’s a challenge to verify their age because many don’t get their first ID until they’re in their teens.
“Part of the solution is to create a version of Instagram for young people or kids where parents have transparency or control.”
New youth protection guidelines also aim to protect minors
Just on Tuesday, the platform announced plans to better protect minors from harassment through parental controls updates. The changes will allow users to receive messages only from people they follow themselves.
In addition, a warning notice is to inform minors that they do not have to reply to every message – especially if they find them unpleasant.
But the vexing problem is here, too: The precaution only works if the children and young people state their age correctly.
Instagram now wants to use artificial intelligence and machine learning to research users’ actual ages so it can “offer age-appropriate features.”
Can Instagram be a safe space for kids?
For Halloween 2019, Instagram CEO Mosseri posted a picture on his public account. He made his children’s faces unrecognizable.
According to Buzzfeed News, one user commented, “Interesting, you’ve obscured your kids’ faces while millions of moms and dads post their kids’ faces on your platform. What do you know about the use of those images that they don’t?”
Mosseri had security concerns as a public figure and therefore hid his children’s faces, he tells Buzzfeed News. “I think when you share sensitive information, it’s important to be careful.”