Facebook’s Instagram for Kids Will Be Money

Investors should know better by now than to accept a big move by a social-media company as solely altruistic.

Facebook has confirmed it is exploring the development of an Instagram-like app for children under 13 to enable them to keep up with family and friends in a safe and ad-free environment. The new app would likely be at least in part a policy-driven move to lure children under the age of 13 off their original Instagram platform where they technically aren’t allowed.

Even as Instagram has upped its safety measures in recent years to keep young children off its more mature apps, research shows a hefty percentage of children are using them. Facebook itself said it collaborated on a study a few years back that showed 81% of U.S. parents reported their children started using social media between the ages of 8 and 13.

On the surface it seems like such a platform would be bad for business, lowering the number of users who can view ads. Facebook says the app wouldn’t be about its bottom line. In reality, such an app could make its ad-targeting ability across its platforms even better. While Facebook acquired Instagram in 2012, the company didn’t require new Instagram users to provide their birth dates until late 2019. That has since helped it to weed out age-hackers, but it has likely also greatly bolstered its ability to target ads in age-dependent categories such as alcohol.

Facebook isn’t new to kids’ apps. Back in 2017, it launched Messenger Kids, a messaging app that mimicked Facebook Messenger but was aimed at children aged 6 to 12. That app is also ad-free, but its privacy policy notes it helps to improve and develop other Facebook products through data collection. So while Messenger Kids is managed by parents, much as Facebook says a kid-focused Instagram app would be, it still collects useful information such as children’s images, voices, time zones, birthdays and genders. It also knows with whom children speak most frequently and has access to their cameras, photos and microphones, if enabled.

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