Meta-owned (FB) Instagram is finally rolling out long-promised parental controls. Available now for U.S. consumers, Instagram’s new tools let teens’ parents and guardians limit app usage time and see who they follow and who follows them.
And if you’re a parent or guardian and want to minimize your kid’s browsing habits, you’ve come to the right place. I’m going to walk you through the process and explain what the tools don’t do. At least yet. But first, let’s go over how we got here.
Instagram’s new features come after whistleblower Frances Haugen released a trove of internal Meta documents to media outlets that showed the company knew Instagram had a negative impact on teenage girls’ body images. In October, Haugen testified before the Senate Consumer Protection Subcommittee, accusing Meta of knowingly making Instagram more addictive for teen users.
Shortly after Haugen’s testimony, and ahead of his own appearance before Congress, Instagram chief Adam Mosseri said the company would soon release its parental control tools. In fact, in a blog post, before his testimony, Mosseri said Instagram had been working on them for a while already.
Now that you’re caught up, here’s how to set up Instagram’s new parental control feature.
Supervising your kids on Instagram
The tool only works for users between the ages of 13 and 17. If your child is younger than 13, they’re breaking Instagram’s terms of service, so delete their account. If they’re 13 or older, though, you can set up parental controls.
The second thing to know about these tools is that you’ll also need your own Instagram account to use them. So if you don’t have one, you’ll need to create one.
I don’t have a child, so I created an account for a fake 14-year-old boy named Bert Howitzer. I then had Bert follow a few accounts including The Rock’s profile and Nike’s page to make my experience a bit more realistic.
Once your kid signs in to their account, they’ll need to navigate to their profile page and select Settings from the option menu, the three horizontal lines in the top right corner of the screen.
From there, choose the Supervision option, and have your child send you a supervision request.
Tap the subsequent notification on your phone, and your Instagram account will be linked to your child’s account.
Once your accounts are linked, you can go into the Supervision option under the settings menu in your Instagram app and set time limits on your child’s usage and see who they’re following and who’s following them. As I followed more pages on Bert’s account, for instance, I received notifications alerting me to the fact through my own Instagram account.
I also set a 15-minute usage limit for Bert. And as advertised, the app stopped working after 15 minutes and told Bert he could come back and use the app tomorrow.
And that’s about all you can do. Yes, Instagram’s parental controls certainly leave much to be desired. Notably, parents can’t unfollow accounts their children previously followed. If you can see who your kids follow via the parental supervision tool, it stands to reason that you should also be able to unfollow those pages for your kids. But that’s not the case.
To be fair, Instagram’s Mosseri describes these tools as just the first set the company will provide, so we’ll hopefully see more in the future. But for a service facing such intense scrutiny you’d think it would have more to offer.
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