More and more teenagers (and even preteens) are moving away from traditional social media sites like Facebook and Twitter and embracing photo-sharing services like Instagram and SnapChat. However, while pre-teens are not technically allowed to use Instagram (the minimum age is 13), many do easily, and with few questions asked.
“Facebook is not doing enough to ensure children under 13 don’t have access to the site,” said Joy Spencer, a director of child safety for the Center for Digital Democracy. “That raises a number of concerns about safety, and because Instagram then is able to collect personally identifiable information on children, which can be used to target ads toward them in the future.”
Instagram does not ask for any personal information during registration, allowing pre-teens to easily register for the site. (Facebook, for its part, asks personal information to determine if someone is underage.) However, a new revision to U.S. child privacy law that takes effect on July 1 will require social networks to get parental consent if they collect personal information such as photos, email addresses or videos from underage users. Determining age online is difficult, and the new revision on July 1 will be even harder to police. However, photo sharing sites like Instagram are exploding in popularity among young users, and the sites’ privacy settings must catch up to the boom.