On the photo-sharing app Instagram, search the keywords #Fairfax, #Rockville or #DC and up pops hundreds of photos from children. Among them, until recently, were many from Kyle, a 12-year-old. His full name, Gaithersburg middle school and favorite Montgomery County hangouts were on public display before his parents put a stop to it.
Technically, Kyle was not supposed to be on Instagram, the mobile app owned by Facebook. The company’s policy sets the minimum age at 13. But Kyle said he was able to join easily, no questions asked. Within minutes of setting up his account this past fall, he was uploading “selfies” of his cherubic face and blond mop top and tagging photos of friends with their names.
Kyle is among the underage users flocking to Instagram, a trend that is creating a new social problem for Facebook.
There isn’t precise independent research that tracks the number of preteen users on Instagram. But teenagers rated Instagram as the third-most-popular social network in a joint study to be released this month by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project and Harvard University’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society.
That surprised researchers because Instagram was not technically defined as a social network; it was mentioned voluntarily by the teens.
“We heard from teens that Instagram and other apps like it are simpler than other social-media sites like Facebook,” said Amanda Lenhart, a Pew researcher. “There aren’t as many adults on it. It’s easy to manage and fun.”Read More