Facebook has paused work on Instagram Kids following concerns surrounding the mental health of users. The project attracted criticisms from parents, experts, and regulators, and is fuelled by internal information leaked to the Wall Street Journal. The leak stated that Facebook and Instagram has made body image issues worse for one in three girls, and in one Facebook study of teenagers in the UK and the US, more than 40% of Instagram users who said they felt “unattractive” said the feeling began while using the app.
In a statement, Adam Mosseri, Head of Instagram said “We believe building “Instagram Kids” is the right thing to do, but we’re pausing the work. We’ll use this time to work with parents, experts and policymakers to demonstrate the value and need for this product, and we’ll continue to build opt-in parental supervision tools for teens.”
Instagram has more than 1 billion users worldwide, with approximately 30 million in the UK. A leak in information found that Facebook completed research in 2019, which found that the social media platform had a negative body image experience stemming from using the app. One slide stated: “We make body image issues worse for one in three teen girls,” from one internal presentation in 2019, seen by the Wall Street Journal. “Thirty-two per cent of teen girls said that when they felt bad about their bodies, Instagram made them feel worse,” a subsequent presentation reported in March 2020.
Another slide said: “Teens blame Instagram for increases in the rate of anxiety and depression. This reaction was unprompted and consistent across all groups.”
However, Mr Mosseri responded to the pausing of the project in the same statement, saying that “Critics of ‘Instagram Kids’ will see this as an acknowledgement that the project is a bad idea. 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.
“We’re not the only company to think so. Our peers recognized these issues and built experiences for kids. YouTube and TikTok have 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). 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.”