Teens and pre teens are flocking to Instagram of late, and disregarding the 13-year-old age limit. As follows is a real exchange between one of our reps and a member of our community – the mother of an 11-year-old undercover Instagram user.
The exchange started on the blog of the ThirdParent website, where there is a post titled “Instagram Allows Users to Report Underage Accounts”. On that page, the parent left the following comment, which is similar to several other comments there left by frustrated parents:
“My 11 year old has an account as well. When I found out she suddenly “forgot” her password. I have reported the account several times but it has not been deleted. Any help with this?”
We’ll take the parent at her word that she reported the account “several times” because we have heard from a number of other parents that they had a similar experience. Our initial response:
Unfortunately, Instagram is very difficult to deal with.
They are only required to delete the account of a minor under the age of 13 if they have “actual knowledge” that the child is under 13. There is no real definition of what actual knowledge is, but in the past, if the minor listed an age in the account profile, accounts have been deleted.
There have been reports from parents who had some success sending Instagram a letter with a copy of the child’s birth certificate, but the last few parents that we know of who tried this have not been successful.
We believe that this is a serious issue for parents, and legislation giving parents of minors more control over their minors’ social media accounts is long past due.
Have you considered taking her phone away until she is willing to delete the account?”
When we wrote the post linked above, Instagram did have an easy way for parents to report underage accounts – there was a form on their website that parents could submit, along with a way to upload a document that proved the underage status, and we heard that parents were seeing success in getting accounts deleted. That was written last October, and their policy has since changed for the worse. Now the Instagram Help Center offers the following form to parents:
It is important to know that Instagram will not confirm receipt of takedown requests, not will they reply to parent inquiries. They claim that privacy laws prohibit them from doing so. For kids under 13, they will not delete accounts if the account does not contain proof that the child is under 13. If the child is 13 – 17, the parents have absolutely no rights whatsoever with respect to getting Instagram to act. From the Instagram Help Center:
“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.”
Again, unless there is proof on the account that the child is under 13, parents have no rights regardless of age.
Back to our current example, the parent replied with the following:
“Thanks for the reply. She does not have a phone or unsupervised access to the internet at home. I believe she has opened the account while staying with someone else and accesses it through other people’s phones… Anytime we are with family or friends she is asking to play on their phones. Even with her unable to access the account regularly I would like it closed and am frustrated with the account not being closed by Instagram.”
That raises two other interesting points:
- Even kids who don’t have their own phone or computer can access Instagram and other apps without parental knowledge or consent
- In some cases, borrowing someone’s phone equals (unsupervised) internet access
The parent in this case is working hard to do all the right things and is getting no help from the law as currently written, or from Instagram.
We’ll be putting together a petition in the coming weeks to try to raise awareness and make some family-friendly changes around the issue of minors’ social media accounts – either via changes to current laws or by getting Instagram to act. Please join us when that time comes, and feel free to leave a comment below.
Contact ThirdParent any time for help and resources for monitoring child and teen internet activity.