Facebook pauses work on Instagram Kids amid backlash

Facebook, which has received harsh criticism from lawmakers and users for its plan to develop an Instagram for kids, announced on Monday that it is pausing work on the project.

Head of Instagram Adam Mosseri said that the company is pausing its work so that it can listen to concerns and put more effort to demonstrate the value of the children’s version, which will be ad-free and allow parents to monitor children’s activities. The app was meant for kids ages 10 to 12. 

“I still firmly believe that it’s a good thing to build a version of Instagram that’s safe for tweens, but we want to take the time to talk to parents and researchers and safety experts and get to more consensus about how to move forward,” Mosseri said on NBC’s “Today” show.

The pause comes after a Wall Street Journal report showed Facebook repeatedly found the Instagram app to cause anxiety and depression in young people, and negatively affects body image. The WSJ reports cited Facebook research examining how Instagram has impacted its teen user base over the past three years, with teenage girls being most noticeably hurt.

An internal Facebook presentation said that among teens who reported suicidal thoughts, 13% of British users and 6% of American users traced the desire to suicide to Instagram. Facebook criticized the WSJ’s series of articles for containing “deliberate mischaracterizations” and not telling the whole picture. 

“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, noting that there were app versions of YouTube and TikTok for those under 13.

“Our intention is not for this version to be the same as Instagram today. It was never meant for younger kids, but for tweens (aged 10-12). It will require parental permission to join, it won’t have ads, and it will have age-appropriate content and features. Parents can supervise the time their children spend on the app and oversee who can message them, who can follow them and who they can follow. The list goes on.” he added. 

Four Democratic lawmakers including U.S. Senators said on Monday they were pleased by Facebook’s decision but said the pause “is insufficient.” 

“We are pleased that Facebook has heeded our calls to stop plowing ahead with its plans to launch a version of Instagram for children. A ‘pause’ is insufficient, however,” the lawmakers said in a statement.

“Facebook has completely forfeited the benefit of the doubt when it comes to protecting young people online and it must completely abandon this project,” said the lawmakers, who also include U.S. Representatives Kathy Castor and Lori Trahan.

Adam Mosseri also said Instagram will also work on expanding its parental controls to teen accounts. “These new features, which parents and teens can opt into, will give parents the tools to meaningfully shape their teen’s experience,” he said.

Written by Maya Robertson

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