Instagram Pauses Plans for a Kids Version and Parents Everywhere Breath a Sigh of Relief
The last thing we need is "Instagram Kids."
Instagram—which is a part of Facebook—has decided to pause plans to launch a “kids” version of the app aimed at tweens ages 10-12. Instagram CEO Adam Mosseri made the announcement via a Twitter thread, where he discussed the company’s decision to take a step back to approach Instagram Kids with more thought and care.
Mosseri tweeted, “We’re pausing ‘Instagram Kids’, although we believe building it is the right thing to do,” adding “While we stand by the need to develop this experience, we’ve decided to pause to 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.”
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/gMbPjft0CW
— Adam Mosseri 😷 (@mosseri) September 27, 2021
The pause comes after a damning new exposé from the Wall Street Journal, which revealed Facebook/Instagram were aware that their apps caused anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues among teen girls. And the effects are quantifiable: an internal research slide from Facebook from 2019 read “we make body image issues worse for one in three teen girls.”
Anyone familiar with social media is well aware of the deleterious effects of those platforms, which range from body image issues to fake news to bogus ads to spreading much of the current anti-vaccination misinformation.
Teenaged girls are already vulnerable to a host of societal issues, which social media seems designed to exacerbate. All the more damning was not only Facebook’s knowledge of these issues, but their seeming indifference to them. According to the WSJ, the social network “has made minimal efforts to address these issues and plays them down in public.”
The article was so damaging that the Senate Commerce Committee’s panel over consumer protection launched a probe into Facebook, with the company’s global head of safety, Antigone Davis, appearing in front of the Senate subcommittee this week.
Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) released a joint statement saying, “It is clear that Facebook is incapable of holding itself accountable. The Wall Street Journal’s reporting reveals Facebook’s leadership to be focused on a growth-at-all-costs mindset that valued profits over the health and lives of children and teens … When given the opportunity to come clean to us about their knowledge of Instagram’s impact on young users, Facebook provided evasive answers that were misleading and covered up clear evidence of significant harm.”
Mosseri claims, however, that concerns are overblown. “This experience was never meant for kids. We were designing an experience for tweens (10-12yo), and it was never going to be the same as Instagram today. Parents approve tween accounts and have oversight over who they follow, who follows them, who messages them, time spent etc,” he wrote, adding, “But the project leaked way before we knew what it would be. People feared the worst, and we had few answers at that stage. Recent WSJ reporting caused even greater concern. It’s clear we need to take more time on this.”
In fact, most government officials and child advocacy groups have been staunchly against “Instagram Kids” ever since its announcement. In May, attorneys general from both parties (representing 44 U.S. states and territories) called on Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to abandon the plans in an open letter, writing that “social media can be detrimental to children for myriad reasons and that Facebook has historically failed to protect the welfare of children on its platforms.”
In the meantime, while Instagram Kids is on hiatus, Mosseri announced that Instagram would be building “optional parental controls for teens,” with more details coming in the future.
(via TechCrunch, image: LIONEL BONAVENTURE/AFP via Getty Images)
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