A few months ago there was talk of an “Instagram for kids” launching, and while that may still be on the cards, Facebook – owners of Instagram, are rolling out new features aimed specifically at the safety of the youngest users of the platform.
There’s three key things being changed for those under 16 on Instagram.
Firstly, for those new to Instagram signing up for the first time, accounts will be set to Private by default. Instagram say in their testing over 80% opted for Private when asked, so this should go down well, and for those parents who are correctly sitting with their kids through the setup, this is a chance to begin that chat about what’s public and what’s private online.
For existing younger users, they will be prompted to switch to private if they are not already, though this will not be forced.
Additionally, advertisers around the world will no longer be able to use anything but Age, Sex and Location to target accounts of those under 18. This has already been the case in Australia, but restricts app use and web use targeting for those under 18 globally.
The most significant change is a bit more vague, but has the principals of a great idea, but also one that must be constantly monitored.
Instagram will use advanced algorithms to determine if the account of an Adult is suspicious in any way toward children. This does not relate to illegal activity, of course that will be referred to authorities as it always is.
But, if there are flags or triggers, Instagram will be able to deem an account to be a “Suspicious account” and if so, limit the access that account has to the Younger users of the platform.
That will include being unable to see the accounts or contents of younger users in search or reels. If a “suspicious account” searches for a username, they will have no options to follow the account.
Additionally, they wont be able to see the comments of Younger users on any Instagram posts.
I see this as an outstanding move, with one word of caution, that I have flagged with Instagram. I follow my son, and all his mates on Instagram. If they all blocked my account in a short space of time, there’s a risk that triggers me as a “Suspicious account”, and thus, I lose the ability to have that parental oversight. It’s extreme, but you don’t want to weaponise these features in the hands on the kids it’s meant to protect.
Instagram say there’s a suite of triggers that would lead to a Suspicious account determination – but we’ll see how that plays out in the months ahead.
These are all very welcome changes, and if Facebook and Instagram are keen to earn the trust of parents after several years of bad PR around data, privacy and such – these measures go a long way in that direction.
Facebook’s local Head of Policy here in Australia – Josh Machin says “We want young people to enjoy using Instagram while making sure we have robust privacy and safety features in place to protect them. That’s why we’re launching these new updates for our global community today, and we’ll continue developing tools that protect teens and our entire community. Privacy is one of our top priorities, and we’ll continue listening to young people, their parents, lawmakers and industry experts to build tools and experiences that safeguard everyone on our platforms.”