In a world where social media is not just a way of sharing but also of connecting Instagram’s recent announcement of an Instagram Kids app seemingly hit into an almost certain need, but today the plans are in tatters after critics of the plan pushed Instagram to “pause” their work on “Instagram Kids”
The plan for Instagram Kids was to have a platform for 10-12 year olds who are not technically eligible for an Instagram account to have a place to share and connect, but with parental controls at the core.
Most parents of young kids will be well aware of Instagram’s parent company Facebook’s app for kids called Messenger Kids – this messaging platform is one of the most robust parentally controlled apps available today, so the idea of an Instagram like app for photo sharing with similar controls seemed logical.
Logical, because the alternative is kids who fake their age and sign up to Instagram anyway.
The fact is most parents are giving their kids smartphones at the age of 11 or 12, many more even earlier, so rather than having kids going around the rules, or behind the backs of parents, you create something that’s “allowed” and can be managed.
Head of Instagram Adam Mosseri says “Critics of “Instagram Kids” will see this as an acknowledgement that the project is a bad idea. That’s not the case. The reality is that kids are already online, and we believe that developing age-appropriate experiences designed specifically for them is far better for parents than where we are today.
We’re not the only company to think so. Our peers recognized these issues and built experiences for kids. YouTube and TikTok have versions of their app for those under 13.“
His passion for the project is clear, saying “Our intention is not for this version to be the same as Instagram today. It was never meant for younger kids, but for tweens (aged 10-12). It will require parental permission to join, it won’t have ads, and it will have age-appropriate content and features. Parents can supervise the time their children spend on the app and oversee who can message them, who can follow them and who they can follow. The list goes on.“
Personally, I think the most telling feelings of the Instagram boss were in his retweeting of this tweet earlier today:
And it’s spot on. Parents are the ones who control what happens here. My son hated that we didn’t allow Instagram until he was 13, but we held out. And made him sign a digital contract when we let him on.
Our youngest are using Facebook Messenger Kids almost daily, it’s fantastic.
Parents simply can’t hand over phones to a 10 year old and expect all will be well. Constant conversations and questions about what’s being seen or shared is the key here.
So having an app that armed parents with some of those tools would be welcome by many.
This about-face by Instagram seems spurred on by Wall Street Journal reporting about the effect of Instagram and social media on teens, particularly girls, and that’s utterly worrying – to any parent.
But I actually think we’ve missed out here on an app that would have helped slowly solve the problem, at least in a small way.
Every app can be better, and social media apps need to be way better. But they aren’t the sole problem here.
Will be interesting to see if or how Instagram gets the critics to understand their vision.
Personally, as a parent, I would have liked to see what they had to offer, and be able to slowly introduce my younger children to it, before perhaps allowing them to “graduate” to the full blown Instagram when appropriate.