Here’s a fact: Instagram, the image-sharing social network, is very popular with pre teens, particularly girls.
As a parent, if you find out that your son or daughter, a minor, has a social media account that you weren’t aware of, you should be able to have it deleted. That’s a simple premise – you’re the parent and your child is under the age of majority. We have been hearing from parents lately that are extremely frustrated by their inability to have their kid’s Instagram account deleted.
The age limit for Instagram, and all general-purpose websites, is 13 as prescribed by the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). Instagram is not alone in doing very little to actually enforce that age limit at signup, or follow up on violations. A new user can claim to be 21 or 99 and nothing is done to verify that fact.
According to COPPA, if a website has “actual knowledge” that a user is under 13, they must delete the account. “Actual knowledge” is not defined anywhere, as far as we know, but we have heard that:
- If a user lists her age in her profile (not a common occurrence), and is under 13, Instagram may delete the account if requested
- If a parent sends Instagram a copy of the minor’s birth certificate, they may delete the account
In practice, it currently is not working that way.
First, good luck contacting Instagram. There is no address or phone number listed on Instagram’s website or app. If a parent wants to contact them, they must use a form on the website, and Instagram is not required to reply, or even acknowledge receipt of the message.
Prior to being acquired by Facebook, the page in Instagram’s website Help Center that pertained to underage accounts had an easy way to upload a document (i.e. a birth certificate) to report a user under 13. That page no longer exists.
You can use an online form to report the account, but from what we can see, unless the actual age is listed on the account, Instagram is denying having “actual knowledge” that the user is underage, or ignoring the request entirely.
If your child is between 13 and 17, you have no shot at having the minor’s account deleted, as far as we can tell.
When we do an audit for a family, we often uncover social media accounts that the parents didn’t know existed. That’s kind of the point of the audit. We believe that every parent should have the right to delete their underage children’s social media accounts if they choose to do so.
We have been contacting politicians and internet safety professionals in an attempt to raise awareness and support for this campaign, and hope you’ll help. Look for an online petition coming soon where you can join the cause – a very important one for parents.
Please feel free to leave a comment below if you have thoughts or email us here.
Thanks to Greg Kudasz at Coppanow.com who helped immensely with background info and research on this issue.
Contact ThirdParent any time for help and resources for monitoring child and teen internet activity.