Kuddle is a new app specifically designed for kids under 13 who are looking to get involved in the Instagram photo-sharing craze. It is designed with heavy parental controls to ensure child safety and responsibility, obviously fantastic goals. It’s no secret that Instagram has many underage users who get around the 13-year-old age limit. Young users of Instagram face potential predator risk, cyberbullying and lots of adult content, so we certainly aren’t going to argue with the age limit. An option for younger users is an interesting concept.
We downloaded the app and took it for a test drive, signing up as a 9-year-old boy. In a number of ways it is far safer for children than Instagram. Specifically;
- The child is required to provide a parent’s emails address at signup, and the parent must agree before the account is activated
- Real names only; no anonymous accounts of pseudonyms
- Users receive and must answer an internet safety question before posting each photo
- All photos are viewable by “friends” only
- Parents are notified each time their child posts new content
- Users can write captions and draw pictures on photos, but viewers of photos cannot comment
- Users cannot tag other users in pictures
- All “Likes” are anonymous
- Once a “friend” is accepted, she can not be unfriended by the user (but a parent can do it)
- No Geolocation settings are used
- Human monitors actively scan for and delete inappropriate content
We applaud their efforts, as it is much more kid-friendly than Instagram, but there are a couple of shortcomings in our view.
- The email address listed as that of a parent could be anyone. In my case, I used 2 of my own email addresses to sign up. A child with two email addresses or with a willing accomplice can easily sign up without parental consent.
- We do not like the idea of using the child’s real name, for obvious safety reasons.
Kuddle claims to be compliant with COPPA, the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, which governs how companies use under-13 kids’ personal information, but we don’t think they are. Kuddle is asking the child for name, gender, email and birthdate before the parent accepts the terms. That in itself looks like a violation. The FTC requires verifiable parental consent before collecting any information from a child. (For comparison, see the FTC complaint and judgment against kids’ site imbee.com.)
Overall, the app needs some work to be as family friendly as the well-intentioned creators desire, and to be COPPA-compliant as far as we can tell.
Broadly speaking, though, we are not sure whether it’s a great idea overall. For some kids, Kuddle is likely to act as a gateway drug to adult social media, perhaps at too young an age. As a parent, I’m not sure of the wisdom of showing an under-10 child how to share photos at all, even if it is on a safe platform.
When it comes to photo sharing, Kuddle looks like a pretty good option for youngsters “who were going to do it anyway”. For parents of the average child under 13, a better message to be sending might be, “You’re too young to be sharing photos.”
Contact ThirdParent any time for help and resources for monitoring child and teen internet activity.