Facebook has taken it in the neck in recent weeks, with a report from the Wall Street Journal pointing out just how bad Instagram is for teenagers — a claim the social network has denied. But the recent outcry has had an effect, with the planned Instagram Kids platform now taking a step back.
An Instagram for children under the age of 13, a largely untapped market, was always set to be a tough sell but all plans for it are now on hold, according to Instagram head Adam Mosseri. Not because the company thinks Instagram Kids is a bad idea, but rather to “…give us 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.”
Read more: Instagram is getting… better?
Facebook does damage control
While we stand by the need to develop this experience, we’ve decided to pause to give us 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.
— Adam Mosseri 😷 (@mosseri) September 27, 2021
In recent months, Facebook and Instagram have rolled out feature after feature aimed at making navigating the platform safer for teens, from making accounts for under 16s private by default to filters to prevent abuse in DMs. This can be seen as the company improving its user experience for everyone, but it could also be Facebook running ahead of a report like the one seen in the WSJ, claiming that the social network has known for some time how detrimental Instagram is to its younger users.
The company has denied the mental health claims made in the recent report, pointing to its own research in defence of Instagram. However you feel about that defence — and the social network does gloss over some of the issues the report has raised — the fact that Facebook representatives have been summoned to appear before Congress in the States means that it’s time for an initiative like Instagram Kids to keep its head down.
Even if Instagram Kids… isn’t such a bad idea. Mosseri points out that “U13s are getting phones, misrepresenting their age, and downloading 13+ apps. YouTube and TikTok saw this happening and made u13 products, we were doing the same.” A dedicated space designed to keep them from the wider world just a little longer may not be a terrible thing — even if it turns into yet another data siphon for Facebook and getting kids aged ten to twelve to actually use it in favour of the main platform proves next to impossible. That conversation isn’t taking place just yet — this one is.