Why Instagram Wants to Know Your Birthday

It isn't a bad thing

Key Takeaways

  • Instagram has started asking for users’ birthdays in popups when using the app.
  • The system first appeared in 2019 and eventually will require users to provide their birthday to continue using Instagram.
  • The move is being made to help monitor which users can see sensitive content and accounts.
Someone looking at an Instagram profile on a smartphone.

Erik Lucatero / Unsplash

Instagram’s move to require users’ birthdays may hurt some account’s reach, but ultimately it will provide a safer environment for people of all ages.

Instagram first started asking users to provide a birthday on their account in 2019. However, users with an older account were omitted from the process, at least until now. Instagram has finally started asking more users to add their birthdays to continue viewing sensitive content. It warns that soon including your birthday in your account information will not be optional.

While it could lead to some accounts having their reach cut, ultimately, this move will help keep younger users safe from sensitive content they do not need to see.

"In my opinion, it’s a great thing to do, even if it hurt my numbers,"  Timo Torner, founder of a popular account called the Cocktail Society, told Lifewire in an email. 

Adding Up

One of the main things Instagram plans to do with your birthday information is to add sensitivity filters to the content you see. While Instagram has many adult users, a study in 2018 found that 72% of teenagers at the time used the social media website.

This number has undoubtedly changed over the past few years; almost 4% of the photo-sharing app’s userbase is between the age of 13-17.

An Instagram sign-on page on a smartphone.

Solen Feyissa / Unsplash

While four percent might not sound huge, that equals around 20 million users within the 13-17 age bracket. Without the sensitivity filters that Instagram is using, Torner says these users could view content that isn’t suitable for their age, including liquor, violence, and sexual content.

Niall Harbison, a social media expert with experience at various agencies and companies, said that the birthday requirement also brings other benefits to the user experience. This includes the ability to retrieve your account using that information, which can be helpful if your account is lost or stolen.

It can also help advertisers create more targeted advertisements for the intended age group, which means teens wouldn’t see products and services for adults in the ads they see.

Of course, there are some negatives to the move, including some possible hits to an account's reach as Instagram really starts buckling down on its monitoring and censoring. However, even Torner agrees that the hits are worth taking if it means protecting the younger users that call Instagram home.

Privacy Concerns

One of the biggest reasons users might be worried about Instagram’s new birthday requirement is privacy. Privacy has become a huge part of the tech and social media conversation within the past year, and it’s something heavy on many users’ minds even now.

At the moment Instagram hasn’t shared whether it plans to keep birthday information private or if it intends to make it public information. 

Someone scrolling an Instagram feed.

Gabrielle Henderson / Unsplash

However, the birthday information users have already added is being used to create safe spaces for users in certain age ranges and limit who adults can message.

While this system will no doubt help keep users safe, it also brings some worrying concerns because it means giving Facebook as a whole more of your data—something that you might not be doing if you’ve actively avoided most of its social media aspects.

Despite these concerns, adding birthday requirements to Instagram can protect teens from being contacted by adults, which helps cut down on online child abuse and other things. It also helps clean up the overall content users can see. 

With so many younger users flocking to social media websites each day, Torner says it is important for Instagram and other social media platforms to protect those users. And Instagram isn’t the only social media site doing similar things. Google, YouTube, and even TikTok have also started making moves to protect their younger users.

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