Almost a decade after its launch, Instagram is now taking responsibility to protect underage kids from the problems with social media as it will now ask new users to input their birth date and bar users younger than 13 from joining. However, it won’t be asking existing users their age.
Starting from Wednesday, December 4th, the photo-sharing service will ask new users for their date of birth when an account is created.
Before now, Instagram users were required to confirm they were ages 13 or older when signing up, but they didn’t have to provide an exact birthday.
However, as with any other online service, it’s possible users can lie about their age in order to join. “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,” Instagram wrote in a blog post.
Instagram said it would use age information to recommend younger people opt for more privacy settings, such as allowing new message requests only from people they follow. The photo-sharing service had been criticized for not checking kids’ ages, which potentially runs the risk of exposing younger users to inappropriate content and also allows Instagram to collect data about kids under the age of 13.
The Child Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) limits how a company can collect data about anyone under 13. COPPA was passed in 1998, but was expanded in 2012 to apply to more types of companies and new technologies, such as mobile devices and targeted ads. Instagram now expects ad targeting to become more accurate as a result of the change.
Previously, Instagram said it targeted those types of ads to people when it was “confident” they were the appropriate age. The company figured out ages from Instagram accounts connected to Facebook, where birthdates are required.
The new requirement marks the latest way Instagram is becoming a little bit more like its parent company Facebook (FB). Birthdays have long been a fixture on Facebook. In recent years, the company has encouraged people to continue wishing each other a happy birthday on Facebook through birthday charity fundraisers and special “Birthday Stories” that disappear after 24 hours.