Instagram’s parental control may not be safe and this tech feature may end up getting abused. There have been concerns over Instagram’s impact on young users, as a result of which Meta added the parental controls. The feature enables parents to view how much time their child spends on Instagram, who they follow, who follows them and when they report an account to content moderators.
The upcoming release will enable parents to set limits on when teens can’t use Instagram, such as during school hours or before bedtime. Though there is a possibility Instagram’s parental controls landing up in the same league as Apple Inc’s AirTags and Amazon’s Ring. While the AirTags are meant to keep track of your personal items, they can be used by a stalker to track you and the home security device has been used as tools in police overreach.
When we take a close there seems to be a major loophole, as Instagram does little to verify if the parent is an actual “parent”. As all the teen has to do is send a request to the supervising account, someone who is over 18 can be that person.
Here the age certification relies mainly on self-reported birthdays, which can potentially allow people of other ages, even if they are not the child’s parents or guardians, to access supervision tools. According to Merritt, an associate professor at New York University’s Silver School of Social Work. the children may not have the autonomy to refuse parents or other adults access to their accounts, putting them at risk.
He further in his email mentioned, “Misuse is absolutely possible and might create a host of deleterious outcomes across circumstances. This is not to say as intended it’s a bad thing, but there will be abuses of coercive oversight.”
Katie Paul, the director of the Tech Transparency Project said, Meta, is also making a lot of assumptions such as who access the tools are digitally literate parents or guardians who are acting in their teen’s best interests.
Let’s hope with all these weaknesses showing up Meta comes up with some solution. Like Apple added new updates to the AirTags which make them sound louder, making people know someone dropped in their bag without their know-how. Likewise, Amazon updated the encryption for Ring videos disabling the capability of police directly contacting customers for video footage.
It is still early to predict if this will happen in the case of Instagram, but the parental controls system has poor age verification capabilities. Jennie Noll, a professor of human development and family studies at Pennsylvania State University said, “There’s so many steps between the actual user activity of the kid and their intention to protect kids in this way that can be either exploited or not adhered to or circumvented.”
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