Amid criticism on its plan to make an Instagram app for users under the age of 13, Facebook will pause Instagram Kids to talk to parents, experts and policymakers about the value and need for the project as well as listen to their concerns.
"While we stand by the need to develop this experience, we've decided to pause this project. This will 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," wrote Adam Mosseri, Head of Instagram, in a blog post.
According to Mosseri, Instagram began this project to address the fact that kids are receiving phones at a younger age and downloading apps that are meant for people aged 13 or above. The Instagram team believes that it is better for parents to have the option to let their kids use an under-13 version of the photo-sharing app than to rely on an app's capability to verify the age of children who are too young to have an ID. Experiences in Instagram Kids will be monitored and controlled by parents.
Earlier this year, the technology giant confirmed its intention to make an under-13 variation of Instagram, adding that it will discourage people below 13 from lying about their age. The company is developing artificial intelligence that will help identify and delete underage accounts on its platform.
In the same blog post that announced Facebook's continuation with Instagram Kids, Mosseri addressed a Wall Street Journal article that revealed that Instagram poses harmful effects on teenage girls as the app is a powerful tool for social comparison or the act of assessing one's own value, attractiveness and success based on comparisons with other people. Specifically, Instagram shows users pictures of idealised bodies on newsfeeds, the Explore page and in advertisements. This negatively affects users' mental health. An internal Facebook research even states: "We make body image issues worse for one in three teen girls." The statistic referenced teenagers who already reported experiences with body image issues of some form.
Aside from that, a study by Facebook of U.S and U.K. teen Instagram users showed that over 40% of respondents who reported feeling "unattractive" said that they began experiencing that feeling when using Instagram. Meanwhile, research reviewed by top Facebook executives concluded that Instagram was designed towards greater "social comparison" than rival apps such as TikTok and Snapchat. Instagram highlights users' lifestyles and bodies more often than the two apps.
Mosseri didn't agree with how the Wall Street Journal discussed Facebook's research. Pratiti Raychoudhury, Vice President, Head of Research at Facebook, said that the Journal's characterisation of the technology company's internal research was inaccurate. Raychoudhury also stated that most of the WSJ's findings focused on research that had only 40 participants. The small study was meant to "inform internal conversations about teens' most negative perceptions of Instagram," she wrote in a blog post.
Written by Sophia Lopez
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