(ABC4) – Facebook is putting the brakes on creating “Instagram Kids” despite saying it believes building the platform is “the right thing to do.”
The social media giant says it intended to create Instagram Kids to “address an important problem seen across our industry: kids are getting phones younger and younger, misrepresenting their age, and downloading apps that are meant for those 13 or older.” In a Monday post to its blog, Facebook developers say they believe it is “better for parents to have the option to give their children access to a version of Instagram that is designed for them.”
The Facebook blog post says the company is pausing the work on Instagram Kids to allow time to “work with parents, experts, policymakers, and regulators” to address concerns about the project. Facebook has come under fire by lawmakers over the impact its platform Instagram can have on the mental health of American youth.
According to a Wall Street Journal report, researchers found that 32% of teen girls who felt bad about their bodies said Instagram made them feel worse. This data was posted to Facebook’s internal message boards.
“Leaders of Facebook knew that Instagram was adversely affecting the mental health of young users, especially our young girls,” says Rep. Lori Trahan (D-Mass.). “I think that they should be focusing 100% on making their service safe for the 10s of millions of young users who are already on them.”
Trahan and other lawmakers sent a letter to Facebook demanding answers and calling for the company to stop the development of Instagram for kids.
A coalition of attorneys general has also sent a letter to Facebook calling on the company to reconsider its plans to create Instagram Kids. The letter cites a range of concerns, including previous issues that Facebook has had protecting children on its platform as well as the negative emotional and mental impact that social media is believed to have.
In March, Zuckerberg, Facebook’s founder, said at a congressional hearing that his company was working on an Instagram for kids under 13 and that the platform would have deep capacities for parental control and visibility. Parental control is where developers will now focus, according to Monday’s blog post.
Facebook says, “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. 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.”
The company explains while the development of Instagram Kids is on hold, the work continues on allowing parents to oversee their children’s accounts by expanding tools to teen accounts – ages 13 and older – on Instagram. According to Facebook, new parental control features – which parents and teens can opt into – will give parents tools to “meaningfully shape their teen’s experience.” More details are expected to be released in the coming weeks.