With the recent policy change coming to Instagram to try and restrict adult-focused ads and content to be seen by minors, Facebook the company that owns the photo-sharing apps is planning adding a date of birth requirement at sign-up for new members. Instagram policies already states that a person has to be at least 13 years old to use the platform. According to Reuters, this will help the company avoid age-restricted ads for being seen by children.
The company has said on their blog:
Asking for this information will help prevent underage people from joining Instagram, help us keep young people safer and enable more age-appropriate experiences overall,
We will use the birthday information you share with us to create more tailored experiences, such as education around account controls and recommended privacy settings for young people.
Vishal Shah the head of product at Instagram told Reuters:
Understanding how old people are is quite important to the work we’re doing, not only to create age-appropriate experiences but to live up to our longstanding rule to not allow access to young people,
According to Reuters, existing members will not be asked by Instagram to confirm their age neither will there be any form of way to verify the age of new members that is given to the company upon registering by a new user.
NSPCC, a child protection charity has criticized the new policy calling it useless. They made a statement saying:
Asking users to provide an unverifiable date of birth will do nothing in practice to protect children from harmful or age-inappropriate content.
Forthcoming regulation will force platforms to go further and will require them to take steps to proactively apply additional protections to children’s accounts by default.
But first and foremost the emphasis has to be on ensuring that platforms are safe in the first place for children to use
Instagram did respond to this saying:
We understand not everyone will share their actual age. How best to collect and verify the age of people who use online services is something that the whole industry is exploring and we are committed to continuing to work with industry and governments to find the best solutions.
The company said that it will encourage underage users to use more privacy settings in the coming weeks.
Despite having the requirement to be 13 years old to use the platform, Facebook has failed to enforce this rule on Instagram as well as its own social media site Facebook. It is thought that millions of children use both the social media platforms every month.
Even with this new policy it is still uncertain how Facebook plans to enforce it as anyone can lie about their age.