Instagram scraps plans for Instagram Kids app for tweens after backlash about harm to young girls

Instagram is halting its plans for Instagram Kids after the company faced backlash for ignoring research that revealed the the social media platform harmed the mental health of teenage girls.  

Facebook, Instagram’s parent company, announced in March that it was planning to launch Instagram Kids – a version of the app for those under 13 which will feature optional parental controls. 

But Adam Mosseri, the head of Instagram, revealed those plans are now on hold, following revelations that the social media giant’s own research found the app made teenage girls feel worse about their body image.

Mosseri hit back at claims Instagram was toxic for teens but admitted the company needed to ‘take more time on this’ to address concerns. 

During his appearance on the TODAY show on Monday, Mosseri announced that they were pausing the roll out of Instagram Kids.

‘I still firmly believe that it’s a good thing to build a version of Instagram that’s designed to by safe for tweens,’ Mosseri said. ‘But we want to take the time to talk to parents and researchers and safety experts and get more of a consensus for how to move forward.’

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Instagram is halting its plans for Instagram Kids, a version of the app designed for tweens, announced Adam Mosseri, the head of Instagram, on an episode of the TODAY show this morning

Mosseri defended the idea of creating a 'parent-controlled' version of the app for those under 13, however, and said the plans are not completely off the table

Mosseri defended the idea of creating a ‘parent-controlled’ version of the app for those under 13, however, and said the plans are not completely off the table

Mosseri’s appearance came less than two weeks after report by the Wall Street Journal found that the app made a third of teenage girls surveyed feel worse about their body image. 

The Wall Street Journals findings, citing a review of internal company documents that included research reports, online employee discussions and drafts of presentations to senior management, said that researchers at Instagram’s parent company Facebook have identified ‘the platform’s ill effects,’ but failed to fix them.  

In a press release from Facebook’s newsroom, Mosseri wrote, ‘Recent reporting from the WSJ on our research into teen’s experiences on Instagram has raised a lot of questions for people. To be clear, I don’t agree with how the Journal has reported on our research.’ 

Concerns about Instagram Kids were raised in May, when a bipartisan group of 44 attorney generals wrote a letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg urging him to drop it.

Their letter warned Instagram Kids could increase cyberbullying, leave children vulnerable to online predators, and perpetuate what they called Facebook’s ‘checkered record’ in not protecting the privacy of children on its platforms. 

In a series of tweets ahead of his TODAY appearance, Mosseri explained his vision for Instagram Kids. He wrote, ‘We’re pausing ‘Instagram Kids’, although we believe building it is the right thing to do.’

In a follow-up, he wrote, ‘I have to believe parents would prefer the option for their children to use an age-appropriate version of Instagram – that gives them oversight – than the alternative. But I’m not here to downplay their concerns, we have to get this right.’

He then added that the app would be far different than the Instagram we know, writing, ‘This experience was never meant for kids. We were designing an experience for tweens (10-12yo), and it was never going to be the same as Instagram today. Parents approve tween accounts and have oversight over who they follow, who follows them, who messages them, time spent etc.’

‘But the project leaked way before we knew what it would be. People feared the worst, and we had few answers at that stage. Recent WSJ reporting caused even greater concern. It’s clear we need to take more time on this.’ 

Mosseri wrote in a Twitter post Monday that this will allow 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.’

Mosseri said that Instagram 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.   

Instagram is denying reports that the app is harmful to the mental health of young girls

Instagram is denying reports that the app is harmful to the mental health of young girls

Mosseri also shared a link to a blog post written by Pratiti Raychoudhury, Facebook’s vice president of research, in which he claims that Instagram actually makes most teenage girls feel better about themselves.  

Raychoudhury writes that the Journal did not note in its story that while girls did struggle with body image after exposure to Instagram, they said they felt better in other areas, like loneliness, anxiety, sadness, and eating issues.

‘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,’ Raychoudhury writes.

‘But here also, the majority of teenage girls who experienced body image issues still reported Instagram either made it better or had no impact.’

Raychoudhury claims that the Journal ‘implied that we were hiding this research and that the results are surprising, but that is simply not accurate.’

Facebook claims that the newspaper failed to ‘put specific findings in context’ and that the research cited ‘did not measure causal relationships between Instagram and real-world issues.’

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