Faced with protests and outrage from lawmakers and child specialists, Facebook has announced that it is pausing its plan to develop an Instagram for kids.
“While we stand by the need to develop this experience, we’ve decided to pause this project. This will give us time to work with parents, experts, policymakers and regulators, to listen to their concerns, and to demonstrate the value and importance of this project for younger teens online today,” Adam Mosseri, Head of Instagram, announced in a blog post
The announcement was no big surprise especially after an expose from Wall Street Journal earlier this month showed that Facebook repeatedly found its Instagram app being harmful to many teenagers. The news scoop had cited Facebook studies over the past three years that examined how Instagram affects its young user base, with teenage girls being most notably harmed.
Of course, many children advocacy groups had written an open letter to Facebook Inc Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg to not create Instagram for children who are under 13, as it would put them at “great risk”.
Even though Facebook has termed it as “pausing” of the project, the general belief is that it may have dropped it, considering that it is already announced new features to lure in youngsters and kids.
Facebook puts up a brave face
Facebook — quite typically — brazened it out while making its announcement yesterday.
“Critics of “Instagram Kids” will see this as an acknowledgement that the project is a bad idea. That’s not the case. The reality is that kids are already online, and we believe that developing age-appropriate experiences designed specifically for them is far better for parents than where we are today,” Adam Mosseri said.
Instagram itself is now asking the users who’ve not previously entered their date of birth to do so in the app. This is being done to help “create safer, more private experiences for young people” on Instagram. Those not complying will lose access to the platform.
Instagram will also work on expanding its parental controls to teen accounts.
We’re pausing “Instagram Kids.” This was a tough decision. I still think building this experience is the right thing to do, but we want to take more time to speak with parents and experts working out how to get this right. pic.twitter.com/gMbPjft0CWSeptember 27, 2021
“These new features, which parents and teens can opt into, will give parents the tools to meaningfully shape their teen’s experience,” Mosseri said.
Mosseri also made it clear that he doesn’t agree with how the WSJ has reported on Facebook’s research. “We do research like this so we can make Instagram better. That means our insights often shed light on problems, but they inspire new ideas and changes to Instagram.”
He said Facebook was exploring two new ideas: encouraging people to look at other topics if they’re dwelling on content that might contribute to negative social comparison, and a feature tentatively called “Take a Break,” where people could put their account on pause and take a moment to consider whether the time they’re spending is meaningful.