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Society

Facebook Puts Instagram for Kids on Hold After Pushback

September 27, 2021

Instagram is putting a hold on the development of Instagram kids, geared towards children under 13, so it can address concerns about the vulnerability of younger users. 

Adam Mosseri, the head of Instagram, wrote in a blog post Monday that a delay will give the company 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."

The announcement follows a investigative series by The Wall Street Journal which reported that Facebook was aware that the use of Instagram by some teenage girls led to mental health issues and anxiety. 

Yet the development of Instagram for a younger audience was met with broader push back almost immediately. 

Facebook announced the development of Instagram for kids in March, saying at the time that it was "exploring a parent-controlled experience." The push back was almost immediate and in May, a bipartisan group of 44 attorneys general wrote to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, urging him to abandon the project, citing the well being of children. 

They cited increased cyberbullying, possible vulnerability to online predators, and what they called Facebook's "checkered record" in protecting children on its platforms. Facebook faced similar criticism in 2017 when it launched the Messenger Kids app, touted as a way for children to chat with family members and friends approved by parents.

Josh Golin, executive director of children's digital advocacy group Fairplay, urged the company Monday to permanently pull the plug on the app.

"We urge Facebook to use this 'pause' to actually engage with the independent child development experts who understand how Instagram will undermine young children's wellbeing," he said in a prepared statement.

Mosseri maintained Monday that the company believes it's better for children under 13 to have a specific platform for age-appropriate content, and that other companies like TikTok and YouTube have app versions for that age group. 

"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," he wrote.

Mosseri said that Instagram for kids is meant for those between the ages of 10 and 12, not younger. It will require parental permission to join, be ad free, and will include age-appropriate content and features. Parents will be able to supervise the time their children spend on the app, oversee who can message them, who can follow them and who they can follow. 

While work is being paused on Instagram Kids, the company will be expanding opt-in parental supervision tools to teen accounts of those 13 and older. More details on these tools will be disclosed in the coming months, Mosseri said. 

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