Instagram’s new parental oversight needs teens to give parents permission first, and we’re already seeing some flaws
Meta announced that Instagram’s Family Center, along with its parental supervision tools, will start rolling out in Malaysia from September 16. Although it looks like the tools seem like a step in the right direction, we still had some concerns. For one thing, it doesn’t seem like teens would want to let their parents oversee their accounts, and they’d likely bypass the features.
What are the parental supervision tools?
The new supervision features will allow parents and guardians to supervise the activities of teenagers (aged 13-18) using the social media platform. They won’t be shown exactly all of their teen’s activities, but Phillip Chua, Instagram’s public policy manager for APAC, says parents will be “enough with it.” Monitoring features include:
- A look at the new connections their teens are making on Instagram, like who they followed and who followed them
- Daily time limits and scheduled breaks during the week to help teens balance their time on Instagram
- Teens can notify you through the app if they report on Instagram so you can discuss it further
Judging from the list of features given by Meta above, it doesn’t seem like parents or guardians will have access to what exactly their teens typed or consumed on the app. So there is still some privacy they will have. However, teens will need to approve parental supervision if requested by their parent or guardian. Basically, they can deny the request if they want. Teenagers can also initiate supervision.
“(The) updates build on improvements we’ve made over the past year, including helping teens have safer and more private experiences, limiting how advertisers can reach young people , understanding users’ real ages and providing teens with more tools to better manage their Instagram experience. Over time, we hope Family Center will empower parents and guardians to help their teens manage experiences through meta technologies…” Chua said.
Will teens even allow parents to watch them?
Here’s the thing, while the parental monitoring tool might be a great idea and help parents manage their teens’ online activities, it might not be used very well. Parents will need to have their teens’ permission to monitor their accounts, and their teens can simply decline their request.
There are also concerns about how users can create multiple accounts, and there may be accounts parents don’t know about. Not to sound like a boomer, but apparently there are things called “finstas” which are basically private accounts only for followers and close friends of the account.
But if you’re hoping to be able to use parental controls secretly without your teens knowing, it could be extremely difficult. Daphne Iking and Aaron Aziz, who made appearances at the briefing today, asked if they could do so with their own children’s accounts. However, Chua said children will also receive notifications from their side. That way kids will know they’re being watched – and they could also take the ability away from parents.
Parents will also need to have their own Instagram accounts in order to oversee their children’s activities. There are concerns that parents who don’t have access to social media or don’t really know how social media works may also not be able to monitor their children.
And if the main concern is sexual predators, is Instagram doing anything to ban these users with weird stories? Reporting sexual predators on Instagram is quite difficult, as you must also file either a link to a listing in a national sex offender registry, a link to an online news article, or a link to a court document in order for Facebook deactivate their account. .
Chua, however, said that as long as you potentially distrust an adult, Instagram is able to block them from contacting you. Meta went on to say that they remove suspicious pages, but there are many, many accounts. They hope that with parental supervision tools, parents can have enough to talk to their teens about their online activities.
Meta says that everyone must be at least 13 years old to create an Instagram account, which is why their tools are intended for teenagers only. But I personally think banning kids altogether would just mean kids could find more creative loopholes around it, given that kids have Instagram accounts anyway.
Meta’s parental monitoring tools aren’t perfect. However, Chua said they aim to “start in the middle” and work their way up. Hopefully they could also refine how they deal with potential predators.