Critics are slamming Instagram over a parents’ guide that suggests young people who aren’t using the social media app risk “social marginalization.”
Instagram published the guide last month in collaboration with ConnectSafely, a nonprofit organization “dedicated to educating users of connected technology about safety, privacy and security,” per its website.
According to Australian parenting blog Kidspot, the Instagram-ConnectSafely guide suggests that children under the age of 13 can use Instagram, despite U.S. laws and Instagram’s minimum age requirement to sign up for an account.
“Whether Instagram is ‘safe’ depends more on how it’s used than on the age of the user,” the guide explains. Instagram does not ask for a user’s age when creating an account, although the platform provides a way to report an underage account in its help center.
But the main controversy stems from the last section of the guide, titled “A few closing thoughts for parents.” In addition to providing useful information for parents about how teens socialize and communicate online, the guide says that “there’s a risk of social marginalization for kids who are not allowed to socialize in this way that’s now so embedded in their social lives.”
The guide also advises parents against shielding their kids from social media because “wise use tends to be better than no use.” Parents and social media experts criticizing the guide say its advice is self-serving rather than protecting the best interests of kids and parents online.
“Social marginalization sounds like a term that has come out of a marketing manager’s mouth,” Ross Bark, who co-founded cybersafety organization Best Enemies, told the Daily Telegraph. “It sounds like a young person will be on the fringes of society if they are not on Instagram, which is a silly suggestion.”
Last week, Instagram released a new parent-oriented “well-being” guide, which the company says it created to showcase safety tools that can protect teenage users. Unlike the ConnectSafetly guide, it emphasizes that the minimum age for users is 13 and describes users as “teens” instead of “kids.” Both guides encourage parents to talk to their children about the app and highlight privacy controls.