Facebook has announced it's pausing development of its upcoming Instagram Kids app. In his blog, Adam Mosseri, Head of Instagram, states that "We believe building “Instagram Kids” is the right thing to do, but we're pausing the work."
Intended as a version of Instagram designed specifically for children under the age of 13, the idea behind the development of Instagram Kids is to address the problem of children misrepresenting their age in order to sign up to the full version of Instagram.
Mosseri goes on to say: "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"
In deciding to pause the development of the Instagram Kids app, developers will have more time to "work with parents, experts, policymakers and regulators, to listen to their concerns". Mosseri is quick to insist that this delay is not simply "acknowledgement that the project is a bad idea". He points out that both YouTube and TikTok already have specific versions of their apps that cater for users under 13, and Instagram Kids would be intended for children between 10 and 12 years old. Parental permission would be required in order to join, there would be no ads, and all content would be age-appropriate.
Extensive parental supervision tools would also be a major part of Instagram Kids, with parents being able to supervise the time their children use the app, and who they communicate with. Such supervision tools are said to be coming to the full version of Instagram regardless of the delay in Instagram Kids, so parents of teenagers 13 or over can still monitor their children's use of the app.
In light of previous controversies surrounding Instagram such as negative body image (opens in new tab), the promotion of self harm (opens in new tab), and the ever-present risk of child exploitation, it should come as no surprise that a a version of Instagram aimed specifically at especially vulnerable pre-teenage children would need to be researched in great depth and implemented exceptionally carefully.
In response to some of these issues, Mosseri cites possible new ideas like encouraging individuals to view other topics if the app detects a user is dwelling on content that might contribute to a negative self image. Another possible feature titled "Take a Break" would also allow a user to pause their account in order to take some time out to consider whether or not their use of the app is enhancing their wellbeing.
However, even with such features, opposition of an Instagram Kids app is still fierce, with many calling for the project not merely to be paused, but to be completely abandoned. In response to Facebook's announcement that it's putting Instagram Kids on hold, Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Representative Kathy Castor (FL-14), Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), and Representative Lori Trahan (MA-03) released a joint statement (opens in new tab) asserting that:
“Facebook has completely forfeited the benefit of the doubt when it comes to protecting young people online and it must completely abandon this project” and " “Time and time again, Facebook has demonstrated the failures of self-regulation, and we know that Congress must step in." They are campaigning for 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."
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