Development of Instagram Kids Paused After Criticisms of App's Harm to Teenagers

Photo: (Photo : OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP via Getty Images)

The development and release of Instagram Kids, the upcoming photo-sharing platform for children below 13 years old, has been on pause in light of the criticisms about the original platform's harm to teenagers.

In a blog post on the official site, Adam Mosseri, the head of Instagram, wrote that they would use this time to listen to what the experts, parents, and policymakers have to say. It comes as the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) published an expose' that Facebook, Instagram's mother company, knew that the photo-sharing app causes mental anxiety and other issues among the youth.

The WSJ found leaked documents that the company did internal research about its users. The results of the study go against their products.

Mosseri, however, said he still believes in their plans for Instagram Kids, which is to make an online platform specifically designed for the safety of the tweens in the digital world. He said that the consensus of parents and experts might be the best move to ensure that they are heading in the right direction.

Read AlsoFacebook Knows Instagram Brings Negative Mental Health Impact to Teen Girls, Leaked Research Reveals

"If anybody leaves using Instagram feeling worse about themselves, that's an important issue we need to take seriously and that we need to figure out how to address," Mosseri said.

Different Than Instagram

Mosseri also shared that Instagram Kids was going to be different than the original platform. However, the leaked WSJ report jumped the gun on their team before they were ready to release the final product in the coming months.

The timing of the leak also coincided with a Senate report, "Protecting Kids Online: Facebook, Instagram, and Mental Health Harms," that expounded on the pressures and mental health challenges that teenagers face today. Pratiti Raychoudhury, the head researcher in Facebook, said that the WSJ report was mischaracterized, and the leak didn't have the full version of their internal analysis.

In May, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg received a letter signed by 44 attorneys general across the U.S. who urged him to ditch Instagram Kids because it could have detrimental effects on young minds. In July, Zuckerberg reiterated plans for the children's app, incorporating tools and features that will help address mental health and improve their relationships. The dad of two said that he had allowed his children, age six and four years old, to access his social media products to communicate with other family members.

The company also said that they are tweaking the parental controls of young users, but details of the app's new features will still be unveiled in the coming months.

Strict Regulations Might Be Needed

Lawmakers, however, could likely place stricter regulations to protect the consumers of Facebook, Instagram, and other social networking apps. Facebook is due to sit down at the Senate Commerce subcommittee, which has an ongoing hearing about the Instagram leak.

Josh Golin of a non-profit children's group said that Facebook should reconsider and cancel its plans for Instagram Kids altogether. However, Golin also noted that it's good the tech giant is listening and conducting dialogues with parents, experts, and regulators for this groundbreaking plan.

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