Instagram Wants Your Birthday to Make the Platform a Safer Place for Everyone

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Feb. 17 2022, Published 11:00 a.m. ET

Social media platforms are far from perfect, but it's only recently that the public has begun to realize just how toxic some of them can be. Although no platform is without its share of problems, Instagram has come under particular scrutiny in recent months because of studies suggesting that it can be particularly harmful for young girls. Although Instagram hasn't radically transformed as a result, it has begun to make some changes to the way it operates.

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Why is Instagram asking for your birthday?

One change that users have begun to notice was actually rolled out in the early fall of 2021 and involves asking users for their birthday when they log on to the platform. According to a blog post from Pavni Diwanji, the vice president of youth products at Instagram, the reason they are asking for people's birthdays is so that they can create a safer, more private experience for young users.

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"To do that we need to know how old everybody is on Instagram, so we’ve started asking people to share their birthday with us if they haven’t shared it previously," the post explains.

At first, the app will simply prompt you to put in your age whenever you log in to Instagram. Eventually, though, if you haven't put it in, the app will prevent you from continuing to use it until you input your birthday.

Instagram has been making age-focused changes.

Instagram is asking for users' ages in part because it has been making changes to its app that are based completely on knowing how old users are. In March of last year, they implemented a change that keeps people over 18 from sending messages to people under 18 who don't follow them, and they also began defaulting accounts belonging to people under 18 to private.

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In addition to the safety features that Instagram has added, Pavni also says that knowing the age of the platform's user base helps them to make the experience more personalized for users. For example, they can restrict the kinds of ads that are served to users under 18, and ads can also be more personalized based on the stage of life a user is in.

Instagram will also prompt users who click on posts with warning screens in front of them for their birthday.

Source: Instagram
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Instagram is working on addressing fake birthdays.

Pavni acknowledged that some people would just choose to enter an incorrect birthday in order to avoid some of the restrictions that are placed on younger users. At the moment, Instagram is working on artificial intelligence technology that can estimate a user's age based on things like the "happy birthday" posts that they receive and other key indicators.

Someday, Instagram is likely to not just ask you for your birthday, but also make you verify your age if the birthday you provide doesn't align with what their artificial intelligence suggests. Some may feel that's a violation of privacy, but Instagram would argue that these steps will help make the platform safer for everyone.

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