Instagram For Kids Could Work If Done Right, Experts Say

Keeping it PG

Key Takeaways

  • Instagram reportedly is working on a new platform aimed at kids under the age of 13 that will focus on privacy. 
  • Kids already are using social media, but some of the “kid-friendly” platforms leave out the tweens looking for more “grown-up” content. 
  • Experts say kids are growing up online, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
A child on a school bus looking at social media on a smartphone.
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While social media never was intended for younger users, more platforms are integrating “kid-friendly” features, and the latest to try is Instagram. 

Instagram is said to be working on a separate platform geared toward kids under 13 as a way to better incorporate the generation that has grown up online. With many parents wary about their kids visiting social media sites at such young ages these days, experts say the key to allaying those fears will be kid-centric platforms featuring built-in safeguards.

"Like anything online, it’s going to have to be pretty moderated, and parental controls are going to have to be important," Alley Dezenhouse-Kelner, the clinical director of Magnificent Minds, told Lifewire in a phone interview. 

"We are used to keeping our kids safe in the physical area we are in, but we can’t really do that digitally." 

Kids Using Social Media 

Instagram’s current policy forbids anyone under the age of 13 from using the service. But kids are still logging onto social media platforms to get a taste of internet culture, even if they are too young for them. 

and Instagram has the opportunity to build on privacy in this reported new platform. 

According to a study by Statista, which surveyed parents about their children, 38% of kids ages 11 or younger use some form of social media, whether that be TikTok, Snapchat, Instagram, or others. Children aged 9-11 dominated the results. Experts say this specific group is significant to consider when thinking about creating separate social platforms for kids. 

"The way online platforms and regulations are designed right now, it assumes there’s this cliff at 13 where kids are thrown into the wild open internet," Dr. Mimi Ito, director at the Connected Learning Lab at the University of California, Irvine, and CEO of Connected Camps, told Lifewire over the phone. 

A middle-school-aged tween posting on social media.
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"There aren't enough spaces that aren't considered PG-13 spaces that are actually attractive to that 10-13 age group."

There already are kid-focused social media platforms, such as YouTube Kids and Facebook Messenger Kids. However, Ito added that a 12- or 13-year-old is not going to find YouTube Kids—which tends to be geared towards much younger kids—as attractive as regular "grown-up" YouTube. 

"I think that there is fairly good evidence from Facebook and YouTube that even when the platforms open up these kid offerings, it hasn't kept kids off of YouTube, for example," she said.

If Instagram can hone in on the "tween" age group by limiting access to certain hashtags and specific profiles, while keeping the culture of Instagram at its core, experts say it could be a thriving space for kids. 

Growing Up Online 

Kids are logging in online at much younger ages than when their parents grew up, but the world has become much more digitally focused, and experts say parents have to accept that screen time and social media are a part of kids' lives. 

Experts say there are benefits to being online early, rather than being thrown into the internet all at once, including learning how to have a positive relationship with technology and learning about self-awareness. 

"The internet has offered the ability to find things [kids] are really interested in and ways of validating their identity," Ito said. "They are able to reach outside of their immediate life world and know their identities and interests are validated." 

"Like anything online, it’s going to have to be pretty moderated, and parental controls are going to have to be important."

Especially with neurodivergent kids or kids with social deficits, the internet can be a great space to grow up in, according to Dezenhouse-Kelner.

"The idea of social interaction is very nuanced and requires a lot of layers of skills like eye contact, conversation skills, social etiquette, and norms, etc.," she said. "The internet removes the barriers for these kinds of kids to participate in social interaction." 

When it comes down to it, experts say parents will have to teach their kids about the internet and everything that comes with it, just like everything else in life. Ito said it’s important to focus on connection rather than control when it comes to kids and social media. 

"To the degree that a parent can be part of [the social media] world and have conversations and support… That is a much more productive and also a more enjoyable role for the parent to have than somebody who is setting a timer [for screen time]," Ito said.

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