Instagram Requires New Users to Provide Birthdates for Protection

Category: Technology/Innovations


Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

  1. age-restricted / eɪdʒ rɪˈstrɪk tɪd / (adj) – describing something that is meant only for a given age group

    It’s an age-restricted movie. Children 13 and below are not allowed to see it.

  2. suitable / ˈsu tə bəl / (adj) – acceptable or right for a certain group of people

    That gown is suitable for our formal event.

  3. in-app / ɪn æp / (adj) – describing something that is available or happening within a particular app

    Instagram shows users a lot of in-app advertisements.

  4. automate / ˈɔ təˌmeɪt / (v) – to make something work or function without the need for human intervention

    You can automate the computations through a software.

  5. skeptical / ˈskɛp tɪ kəl / (adj) – doubtful

    My sister is encouraging me to join the contest, but I’m skeptical about winning.


Read the text below.

In hopes of protecting young users from age-restricted content, Instagram is now requiring new users to provide birthdates.

This initiative replaces the app’s old method of simply asking new users if they are 13 years old and above. The company adopted the new policy in December 2019. Aside from asking for birthdates, the app now also lets users block messages from other accounts that they do not follow. This will help keep minors away from inappropriate content posted by other users.

The policy change is the app’s response to criticisms from several family safety groups that Instagram is letting children see content that is not suitable for them.

The company will not require users to give proof of the birthdates they provide. However, it will use artificial intelligence to predict users’ age based on their interactions, activities, and other in-app data.

Instagram has started to develop software that can automate the prediction of a user’s age and gender. So, in addition to the self-reported birthdates, Instagram will analyze posts from users and other accounts they have interacted with to verify their real age.

The new move was met with reservations, however. Privacy consultant Linnette Attai said that the change does not address the need to delete all accounts owned by underage users.

Lindsey Barrett, a lawyer and educator at Georgetown’s Communications and Technology Law Clinic, is also skeptical that Instagram’s efforts will succeed. She believes that children 13 years old and below will still sign up for Instagram even if it means that they have to lie about their age.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.

Discussion A

• Do you think that Instagram’s recent policy change will be effective in protecting children from inappropriate content? Why or why not?
• Do you agree with Instagram’s decision to use artificial intelligence to review users’ information and posts as a way to determine their actual age? Why or why not?

Discussion B

• In this day and age, how do you think children can be protected from inappropriate online content? Discuss.
• Aside from Instagram, what other apps do you think need to have more effective policies to protect children online? Discuss.