We aren’t going to stop writing about Instagram leaving parents powerless deleting their child’s account until something changes. Here we go again.
Instagram’s age limit is 13, but it is not enforced in any way. If a parent finds out that a child (under 13) has joined Instagram, she should be able to contact Instagram to have the account deleted. In practice, she can’t, except for in a narrow set of circumstances. Several parents in the last few months have contacted us asking for help deleting their child’s Instagram account. Help doesn’t exist.
Instagram claims that they’re helpless in cases such as these. According to their Tips for Parents section under “How do I report an underage child”:
“Generally, privacy laws don’t allow us to give unauthorized access to someone who isn’t an account holder. All people on Instagram ages 13 and older are considered authorized account holders and are included in the scope of this policy.”
We have been discussing this issue with a friend of ours, Greg at coppaNOW. COPPA is the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, and Greg is a go-to resource for us in this area. We decided to do a test to see whether we could determine a set of circumstances in which Instagram would delete the account of a child under 13.
One of my kids is 15, and I started off by finding a few old pictures of him. I then created an Instagram account in his name, and listed his age as 11 in his profile. I also posted the picture at right, inviting anyone who cared to his 11th birthday party. We let a couple of days go by, and then Greg reported the account to Instagram.
Guess what? Instagram deleted the account within 8 hours.
Greg, who reported him, was obviously not his parent. It appears, as we suspected, that Instagram will only delete an underage user’s account if there is clear proof in the account itself that the user is under 13. We have helped parents report plenty of other accounts, to no avail. Some even mailed in a copy of the child’s birth certificate. It appears that only if Instagram is at risk of being sued for violating COPPA will they act; not simply because a parent wants them to.
Since Instagram uses no age verification system, it goes without saying that a parent is more capable of vetting a child’s age than Instagram is. Plus, it’s their child. Clearly, they have the ability delete underage accounts in a timely fashion – they did so in this case. We are calling for them to add the staff and resources necessary to implement a way to give parents the control that they should rightly have. This needs to change.
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Contact ThirdParent any time for help and resources for monitoring child and teen internet activity.