We’re living in a world that revolves, ever increasingly, around tech. It should come as no surprise, then, that our children are learning to use tech earlier and earlier – they will, after all, be using it for their whole lives. As we watch kids embrace iPads, smartphones and mobile apps there’s growing debate about how it will affect them in the long-run. In the midst of this, Instagram has decided to launch a new photo-centric app particularly targeted at its growing pre-teen user base. Here’s what we know about the potential new Instagram for kids under 13.
It should be noted that the IG we all know and love requires users to be at least 13 years of age in order to create an account. Now, to expand their market and the company as a whole, they’re trying to find a way to cater to younger users too.
According to an internal company post obtained by BuzzFeed News, executives at Instagram, the company has “identified youth work as a priority for Instagram and have added it to [their] H1 priority list”.
“We will be building a new youth pillar within the Community Product Group to focus on two things: (a) accelerating our integrity and privacy work to ensure the safest possible experience for teens and (b) building a version of Instagram that allows people under the age of 13 to safely use Instagram for the first time,” wrote Vishal Shah, Instagram’s vice president of product.
This internal announcement, according to Buzzfeed, came only two days after the company announced that it would do more to protect young users, in the light of coverage regarding bullying and abuse faced by young users on their app.
At the moment, it sounds like this new version of IG may allow for more parental transparency and control than the current version does, but the according to Adam Mosseri, the head of Instagram they don’t yet have a “detailed plan”.
By building an app which targets young users, not only will Instagram be expanding their user base considerably, but they’ll insure that those young users are hooked on their platform for life. While this sounds like an exceptionally viable business opportunity for them, it may be worrying to some parents who don’t want to see their ten-year-old glued to a screen the way many millennials and gen-Zs already are.
In fact, other apps that have tried to create platforms for children – such as Youtube and Facebook – have already experienced some backlash. According to Buzzfeed, after the development of Messenger Kids, “a group of more than 95 advocates for children’s health sent a letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, calling for him to discontinue the product and citing research that ‘excessive use of digital devices and social media is harmful to children and teens, making it very likely this new app will undermine children’s healthy development.'”
In addition, it’s hard to imagine how this new Instagram for kids will be able to police cyber-bullying more effectively than Instagram currently is – which is, not much at all, as it continues to be a problem on the platform, particularly with young users. Instagram has one of the worst records of cyber-bullying and online abuse, prompting Taylor Lorenz to write in an Atlantic article that “teenagers have always been cruel to one another. But Instagram provides a uniquely powerful set of tools to do so”.
Lorenz cites a recent Pew survey, which found that “59 percent of teens have been bullied online, and according to a 2017 survey conducted by Ditch the Label, a nonprofit anti-bullying group, more than one in five 12-to-20-year-olds experience bullying specifically on Instagram”.
We’ll just have to wait and see what this new Instagram for kids will look like, and how the organisation plans to keep young children safe while using their platform, because as we know, capitalism and the will of the Facebook-owned company will probably win out in this debate.
In the meantime, new parents may have to start thinking about how they’re going to navigate this world in which apps and tech are taking over bigger and bigger portions of their kids’ childhoods – because that seems to be inevitable.