Facebook confirmed Monday that it has paused development of its tween-centric Instagram Kids service amid mounting concerns about the platform’s potential negative impact on the mental health of children.
Adam Mosseri, the head of Instagram, argued in a blog post that preliminary plans for the platform targeting those 13 years old and younger were leaked prematurely, prompting the backlash. He conceded, however, that stepping back will provide ample time for developers to better gauge and address public concerns.
“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,” Mosseri wrote.
The postponement comes “just before a scheduled congressional hearing this week about internal research conducted by Facebook, and reported in The Wall Street Journal, that showed the company knew of the harmful mental health effects that Instagram was having on teenage girls,” The New York Times reported.
According to BBC News, the Journal’s examination of Facebook’s internal research concluded that Instagram was “toxic for teen girls,” but Pratiti Raychoudhury, Facebook’s research chief, called the allegation “simply not accurate” in a separate blog post.
Meanwhile, Facebook had argued that age-requirement rules have not effectively dissuaded young people from using the photo-sharing app in its current form, but developing a more age-appropriate platform, intended primarily for children ages 10 to 12, would give parents more control over the content their children view. Specifically, Instagram Kids would require parental permission to join, feature no advertisements and carry “more age-appropriate content and features,” the Times reported.
The company previously told BBC News that Instagram Kids would be a “practical solution to the ongoing industry problem of kids lying about their age to access apps” and enable children to connect with family and friends in an “age-appropriate way.”
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