Facebook is ‘Pausing’ Development of Instagram for Kids
Instagram’s head Adam Mosseri has announced that the company is pausing development for an “Instagram for Kids” amid outside pressure from lawmakers and regulators, although Mosseri says Instagram still believes it’s “the right thing to do.”
It was revealed that Facebook was working on a version of Instagram designed specifically for children back in March when Buzzfeed published a story citing a post from Facebook’s internal message board. Adam Mosseri admitted that the project was in the works and said that while the company has attempted to put safeguards in place to protect children on the platform, it has been a challenge to verify their ages as more kids try and use it.
“We have to do a lot here,” he said, “but part of the solution is to create a version of Instagram for young people or kids where parents have transparency or control. It’s one of the things we’re exploring.”
Instagram and Facebook were nearly immediately inundated with pressure to abandon the project from federal lawmakers, 44 state attorneys general, and 35 children’s and consumer groups.
In response, Mosseri has said that despite believing that building a dedicated Instagram specifically for Children is “the right thing to do,” the company would pause its work and use the time to engage with parents, experts, and policymakers in an effort to demonstrate the value and need for the app.
“We firmly believe that it’s better for parents to have the option to give their children access to a version of Instagram that is designed for them — where parents can supervise and control their experience — than relying on an app’s ability to verify the age of kids who are too young to have an ID,” Mosseri writes.
Mosseri adds that those who are opposed to the project will likely see this announcement as a win and an acknowledgment that it is a “bad idea,” he asserts that this is 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,” he says. “We’re not the only company to think so. Our peers recognized these issues and built experiences for kids. YouTube and TikTok have versions of their app for those under 13.”
Mosseri argues that one of the reasons it wanted to build an Instagram for kids was to allow parents to better supervise their child’s use of the app. While the company has paused building a dedicated platform for children, he says that the company will continue to work on ways to allow parents to oversee their children’s accounts by expanding tools it has built to teen accounts on Instagram.
“These new features, which parents and teens can opt into, will give parents the tools to meaningfully shape their teen’s experience. We’ll have more to share on this in the coming months,” he says.
It was recently revealed that Facebook conducted an internal study that revealed it is aware that its platforms, Facebook and Instagram, are toxic to teen girls. It is unclear if the tools that it intends to roll out for teens will be effective in mitigating this particular issue.
Update: As reported by Engadget, just hours after the announcement that Facebook would be pausing the development of an Instagram for kids, lawmakers have claimed that the company is “heeding” calls from the public, but that pausing is not good enough — it must completely abandon the project.
Facebook is heeding our calls to stop plowing ahead with plans to launch a version of Instagram for kids. But a "pause" is insufficient. Facebook must completely abandon this project. https://t.co/CA6ikJHxOH
— Ed Markey (@SenMarkey) September 27, 2021
Representatives Kathy Castor and Lori Trahan say Facebook’s decision to pause development is “insufficient.”
“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 Senators Blumenthal and Markley along with Representatives Castor and Trahan in a joint statement.
“Time and time again, Facebook has demonstrated the failures of self-regulation, and we know that Congress must step in. That’s why we will be re-introducing the Kids Internet Design and Safety (KIDS) Act, which will give young internet users the protections they need to navigate today’s online ecosystem without sacrificing their wellbeing. We urge our colleagues to join us in this effort and pass this critical legislation.”
Image credits: All photos licensed via Depositphotos.