The Girls Of Instagram - What Happened?

Friday, October 17, 2014

So I woke up this morning to a text message. Popular nine year old, Florida surfer/skater, Zoe Benedetto's instagram was GONE it said. Gone, as in deleted as if it never existed. No warning, no notification, no "nothing" according to her mom. Just a "user not found" on the screen where post after post of her surfing & skating photos & videos once were.  Zoe competes up and down the Florida coast and is a top ranked amateur surfer.  Now Zoe was gone, and so were her photos, videos and 4,000+ followers. All of her friends and her major sponsors, like Billabong and Go Pro (and us here at GN4LW!) were left in the dark wondering "what just happened?"

Then we received a text from Jason who runs The Pink Helmet Posse in California - well known eight year old skaters Bella Kenworthy with 2,000+ follwers & Sierra Kerr at 10,000+ followers, also gone from instagram. The Pink Helmet Posse had recently been featured in Sports Illustrated Kids Magazine, had their documentary movie premier at the New York Film Festival to rave reviews, and now 2 out of 3 of the core team were deleted from instagram .  Why??

Then the calls & texts came fast and furious. It wasn't just these 3 exceptional pint sized female athletes that were deleted. Nope, there were more.

Sabre Norris, age nine who was featured in the new Kid Mac video, and was the first Australian girl to do a 540 on a vert ramp, was missing from instagram. Like the other girls, Sabre had 12,000+ followers. She also has over 1,230,000+ hits on her Youtube video of her 540 posted by The Berrics.

Minna Stess age eight from Northern California, also had her account deleted today. Minna had 4,010 followers as of last night before she went to bed. You might remember Minna from the video of her dropping in on the 28 foot high mega ramp at Woodward this past summer. The girl is incredible! She has been busy at the skate park practicing hard & preparing her "A" game to compete in Exposure Skate - an all girl skate contest being held in San Diego in November. This unwanted distraction was not something she or her parents needed.

Last but not least at the time of this posting, was little Quincy Symonds age six, also known in surf and skate circles across the world as The Flying Squirrel. Quincy had just been featured on a TV show about how she has overcome tough medical odds to become an amazing surfer and skater. Her followers also numbered in the thousands.

You may be thinking, "it's only social media, who really cares"?? Well, a lot of people do apparently. It is the talk of the action sports community, and it should be. These young athletes work hard to be the top tier in their respective sports. They are also all under the age of 10 and have multiple sponsors that they post for and those same sponsors share their posts. But more importantly they are all positive role models for girls of all ages. These girls are not showing skin or talking about boys and posting risque photos - they are surfing and skateboarding and making strides in the action sports community like no other generation has done previously.

If Instagram took their profiles down with out notifying them or their parents (all the accounts above are run/monitored by the parents) it was a major disservice to all young girls out there. It also left a lot of people in the dark as to what instagram's policy's really are.

New updated  info as of 10/19 - Some parents saw the account was deleted - then tried to "sign" in - when they did they received a screen that came up saying you must verify your age to be over 13 - since the parents ran these accounts (and said so in bio) they sent in their info. No word yet on action instagram is taking to reinstate accounts or not.

New info as of 10/18 : * Or was it hackers as people have speculated? If so, it would be great for instagram to publicly address the issue.

* Is it because they are under 13? If so, why wasn't a notification sent before deleting double checking their ages? (some did get this , some did not)

* Was it someone who clicked that dreaded "report to instagram" button and employees at Instagram noticed no pattern with the reports and just hit delete?

* Why were these kids singled out and why specifically skaters and surfers?

New info as of 10/18: * We have now heard that there are some boys who were deleted as well, and other athletes whose pages are "locked" pending verification from instagram, but when parents responded with answers, nothing happened to "unlock" the page. 

* And last but not least, why is instagram so hard to get hold of?  Online forms were filled out and Instagram was contacted by all these girls parents -  and has yet to respond.

When you have girls out there like Zoe, Bella, Sierra, Minna, Quincy & Sabre that are such positive role models for other young girls,  this whole thing just doesn't make much sense.

We'd appreciate you all sharing this post, & talking about this topic on social media.  Hopefully by working together, we can get instagram to respond, find out what happened, & get these girls accounts back.


  1. The Terms of Use of Instagram (which you accept as a user of Instagram) state that in compliance with the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (US Feds), no child under the age of 13 may use Instagram (see #1 under Instagram's Basic Terms-see link at bottom).

    If Instagram can verify the users are under the age of 13 (easily done with all the publicity these young athletes, male and female alike, have received) they will delete the accounts. Since the users agreed to the Terms of Use of Instagram when they signed up, Instagram does not need to notify the users when the accounts are deleted (see #1 under Instagram's General Conditions-see link at bottom).

    I understand there is a desire to use social media to increase and "jump start" the impact and status of these young athletes at increasingly younger ages, but these measures to protect youth on the web are measures I stand by.

    All these kids trying to get on social media are in the same boat, males and females, athletes and non-athletes alike. This ought to cause us pause. There may be parents out there who may not have their kids best interest at heart. Opening the door to the good folks also opens the door to the not-so-good-folks. There are also plenty of predators online who would like for nothing more than to get more images of young children online, sexualized or not.

    This is why the Children's Online Privacy Protection Rule was enacted.



    1. I agree with a lot of what you have said, but the odd thing here is that all these accounts were run by the parents and state so in the bio. And the target seems to have mainly been action sports athletes from what we are hearing which has led some people to think "hacking"? Then do we also tell parents they can not have a instagram or FB feed of their own full of shots of their underage children - post after post? These preedatotrs have access to those feeds as well. They do not get shut down. I worry more about the kids OVER 13 that run their own accounts - reports of predators luring them into harm, because at this point a lot of parents are allowing the kids to post and use social media largely unmonitored (which I also do not think is a good idea) It also stands to reason that all young actress and actor accounts should be shut down - even if run by their "management" as some state in bios. I think regardless of what side of the fence people are on re: this issue - its a good conversation to be having - it's gets people thinking about safety and how they want to protect their kids.

    2. also - if this is the Cori I think it is - you are one badass surfer and I love how you stick up for what you believe in and speak out. Thanks for taking the time to post your thoughts here. conversation is ALWAYS a good thing.

  2. Many thanks, Cindy. Such respect for what you are doing here!

    Out of curiosity, after your well-made points, I looked up some child actors, actresses, and singers who are under the age of 13 and tried to track down whether they had Instagram accounts. Neither they, nor their parents/managers have accounts for them on Instagram. Twitter accounts, yes; websites, yes; hashtags, yes; defunct Instagram APIs, yes (which indicates they tried to set up an Instagram, but had it shut down w/o the API accounts being shut down or updated); but no Instagram accounts.

    I'm wondering if this is Instagram zeroing in on action/board sports all at once?

  3. Still digging... Some kids pages have been removed, some still exist.

    Looks like the way to go is to have an "Official Page of ______" and make a clear statement to the effect of "This page managed by ______" (might have to be an official management company) or set up an account as the parent and post pics of your kid (see for Alonso Mateo).

    Instagram did a big purge of the under-13 set at the beginning of last year, but it looks like currently, there might be an amount of followers you hit before getting a red flag? Definitely to your point of confusing Terms of Use.

    I might be being overly optimistic here. Hope it all gets worked out... I'll be following along in the meantime.

    1. Thanks Cori!

      There was an piece done on business insider about 15 months ago (I just looked it up now) about kids who had big following on instagram - just checked and most of them are still using/on the platform.

      Check out @franklinromeo @gavinduh @jjjordynjones (shes 12) @baby_mannequinn @miss_gabby_13 (she is about 5 or 6 yrs old) - all cute kids but w/the exception of Jordyn they are not elite athletes or actors where there is really a "reason" for the page.

      It's mainly the parents dressing kid up and posting pic after pic to show style. All have huge following.

      I do think you are right its an under 13 thing & I bet instagram is cleaning house - but it would be nice for them to tell the account holders "You are being deleted because you are under the age requirement UNLESS you can have a parent sign off that they will be solely responsible for content and monitoring page"

      The problem is these athletes parents are just turning around and starting new pages - so that really doesn't solve instagrams problem IF its the under 13 issue...

      I always think when things are clear cut people can argue (because they always do) but at least the rest of the world knows the rules apply to everyone OR "if" you handle it THIS way that is acceptable to i.e. "Official Page" etc.

    2. Hi Cori, I just posted another article with proof that instagram is allowing underage kids to be on its site (when it wants to) and that it deleted this child and then recovered their account, reinstated it, and the kid is back on with an even larger following than before. It made the news in the UK this summer when it happened. interesting situation....

  4. My initial reaction is that the conversation around whether or not the kids under thirteen should have an Instagram page ends with the FTC regulations. There is a reason this regulation exists.

    After thinking abut it though, Instagram is a place where these girls can fund their dreams through promoting their talent and jewelry. That should be allowed. So there is a whole new discussion about the rights of children. That discussion will need to be taken up with the FTC, not Instagram.

    Concerning the 13 and up kids, I definitely think there should be some education around social media for young teens, young adults, and the parents.

    1. Nicole - you'd think it would be soley an FTC thing but with so many high volume accounts of kids as young as 5 on there that are not actors or athletes (see my comment above in thread) instagram is still leaving them up. Does it make a difference if bio says run by management? Or is that a mute point. Only instagram can answer those questions. It will be interesting what they have to say. :-) Thanks for taking the time to weigh in - conversation brings awareness which is a great thing!

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