Instagram will begin asking users their birthday starting today, the company announced in a blog post.
Technically only people age 13 and older are allowed on Instagram’s platform, but the app had no way to check or confirm a user’s age until now.
“Asking for this information will help prevent underage people from joining Instagram, help us keep young people safer and enable more age-appropriate experiences overall,” the company wrote.
Users who have signed up for Instagram using their Facebook accounts will automatically see their accounts updated with their birthdays, but the date will not be public information.
In a statement to Digital Trends, Instagram did not say whether they expected any kind of drop in active users, merely that “Our aim is for this update to further stop anyone under the age of 13 from joining Instagram.”
“Understanding how old people are on Instagram is a central part of the work we’re doing to keep young people safe,” said the spokesperson. “It will allow us to create age-appropriate experiences for our youngest community members, whilst living up to our longstanding rule to ensure people who are underage do not have access to Instagram.”
This age-checking practice was already standard on rival apps like Snapchat. Enforcing the age limits will now bring Instagram in line with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, or COPPA, which requires operators to protect the privacy of people under 13 online. This year the Federal Trade Commission fined popular video app TikTok a record $ 5.7 million for COPPA violations. TikTok now requires users to enter their birthday when they sign up.
Facebook — which bought Instagram for $ 1 billion in 2012 — already disallows users under 13 on its platform, but it seems that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg isn’t such a fan of COPPA. Speaking at an education summit in 2016, he said he believes children under 13 should be allowed on social media platforms for, it seems, educational purposes.
“That will be a fight we take on at some point,” he said during the conference, as reported by Fortune Magazine. “My philosophy is that for education you need to start at a really, really young age.”
Of course, as is common, this method will not be foolproof: Users can easily lie, or a parent could set up the account for their child. Instagram told Digital Trends it does understand that people will lie on the internet, and that they will “continue to work with industry and governments to find the best solutions.” Any parent who sets up a child’s account must clearly identify that an adult is running the account, the spokesperson added.
It also appears that Instagram is testing a feature that would allow businesses to restrict what age can view their products, according to app researcher Jane Manchun Wong.
Instagram is testing age restriction for business accounts pic.twitter.com/Xrlc3gAPyH
— Jane Manchun Wong (@wongmjane) October 17, 2019
After launching the birthday feature, we should expect Instagram to “no-comment” on the Age Restriction option for business accounts until launch
This could allow brands that are 18+ only to strive on the platformhttps://t.co/xsuBK96aiW
— Jane Manchun Wong (@wongmjane) December 4, 2019
Instagram also said the new birthday data on all their 1 billion active monthly users will be used “to create more tailored experiences.”