Instagram Kids Development Halted After Backlash

Facebook’s photo-sharing app Instagram has confirmed it is ‘pausing’ the development of the “Instagram Kids” app.

Confirmation that development of Instagram Kids was being halted, was tweeted by the head of the app, Adam Mosseri.

“We’re pausing “Instagram Kids”, although we believe building it is the right thing to do.”

The platform then published a blog post in which it expanded upon its reasons for pausing the project, amid a growing backlash over a report about the platform and its damaging effecting on teenagers, especially teenage girls.

Instagram Kids

Instagram Kids had been touted as requiring parental permission to join, and was supposed to provide ad-free, age-appropriate content.

However US lawmakers and advocacy groups have urged the social media giant to drop its launch plans, citing child safety concerns.

Instagram in its blog post said that building Instagram Kids was the right thing to do, but that it was pausing the work and to free up time to “work with parents, experts and policymakers to demonstrate the value and need for this product.”

“We wanted to provide an update on our work to build an Instagram experience for people under the age of 13, often referred to as ‘Instagram Kids,’” blogged Mosseri. “We started this project 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.”

“Critics of ‘Instagram Kids’ will see this as an acknowledgement that the project is a bad idea,” Mosseri wrote. “That’s 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.”

Last month Facebook confirmed that going forward it would require Instagram users to share their date of birth, in an effort to improve child safety.

He pointed out that Instagram was not the only product to think so, with YouTube and TikTok delivering versions of their app 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),” said Mosseri. “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.”

Instagram impact?

However Instagram is facing tough questions from child safety campaigners and law makers, after the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reported on leaked internal research which suggested that Instagram had a harmful effect on teenagers, particularly teen girls, and that Facebook had made minimal efforts to address the issue.

Facebook head of research Pratiti Raychoudhury in a blog post at the weekend called this allegation “simply not accurate”.

“It is simply not accurate that this research demonstrates Instagram is toxic’ for teen girls,” wrote Raychoudhury. “The research actually demonstrated that many teens we heard from feel that using Instagram helps them when they are struggling with the kinds of hard moments and issues teenagers have always faced.”

“In fact, in 11 of 12 areas on the slide referenced by the Journal – including serious areas like loneliness, anxiety, sadness and eating issues – more teenage girls who said they struggled with that issue also said that Instagram made those difficult times better rather than worse,” said Raychoudhury.

“Body image was the only area where teen girls who reported struggling with the issue said Instagram made it worse as compared to the other 11 areas,” said Raychoudhury. “But here also, the majority of teenage girls who experienced body image issues still reported Instagram either made it better or had no impact.”

Previous studies

An Oxford University study in 2019 concluded that the amount of time that teenagers spend on social media has a tiny impact on their life satisfaction.

That study involved 12,672 youngsters aged between 10- to 15 years old, and it concluded that “social media use is not, in and of itself, a strong predictor of life satisfaction across the adolescent population.”

That findings came after the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) concluded earlier in 2019 that there was “not enough evidence to confirm that screen time is in itself harmful to child health at any age.”

Despite this, the amount of time children are spending using tech will no doubt still cause parents worry.

In 2018 Apple CEO Tim Cook urged parents to stop children using social media. He reportedly banned his nephew for example from using social networks.

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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