Facebook pauses Instagram Kids because it was actually a bad idea


Instagram Kids, a modified version of the app with additional parental controls, has been in the works for a while. But before it could see the light of day, Facebook dropped the project, saying in a statement Monday that building an Instagram for people under 13 years old is “the right thing to do” but, apparently, just not right now.

Instead of focusing on Instagram Kids, the platform promised to use this time to “work with parents, experts and policymakers to demonstrate the value and need for this product” and build in parental supervision tools for teens.

This comes just weeks after a barrage of news stories were released detailing Instagram’s failure to keep young people safe on the app, particularly teenage girls. According to an internal report obtained by the Wall Street Journal, Facebook knew that Instagram had detrimental effects on young women’s mental health, but didn’t make that research public or offer any solutions to the problem it had created.

Instagram head Adam Mosseri said in a statement that he doesn’t agree with how the Wall Street Journal reported on the research but didn’t deny any facts from the story, saying the research was done simply to make the platform better. Last week, also after the bombshell report, Instagram announced it’s working on two new ideas: encouraging users to look at other content when it appears they’re dwelling on things that might encourage negative social comparison and a separate tool to encourage users to “take a break” from the app.

“I have three children and their safety is the most important thing in my life,” Mosseri said. “I hear the concerns with this project, and we’re announcing these steps today so we can get it right.”

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said at a congressional hearing in March that there are already a “large number of people under the age of 13 who would want to use a service like Instagram” but aren’t authorized to do so because of federal privacy laws. So, kids are lying about their age to sign onto the app at younger ages. And that seems to be true: According to a report from the nonprofit Thorn, 40 percent of kids surveyed under the age of 13 already use Instagram. An Instagram Kids platform is basically the social media equivalent of “if you’re going to do it, I’d rather you do it in the house” parenting.

“We firmly believe that it’s better for parents to have the option to give their children access to a version of Instagram that is designed for them — where parents can supervise and control their experience — than relying on an app’s ability to verify the age of kids who are too young to have an ID,” the platform said in its statement.

Critics, though, argued that Instagram Kids was a blatant attempt by the media giant to engage children at a younger age. A lot of people hated the idea, kids included.

While there are platforms that have versions of their apps for young people, including TikTok and YouTube, not all companies think it’s a good idea. Alexis Ohanian, who co-founded Reddit, tweeted that the move to pause Instagram Kids was “a good move.”

Instagram for Kids was “a bad idea from day one,” said Jim Steyer, the founder and CEO of Common Sense Media, an organization that advocates for safe technology for children, in a statement. He added that the platform only cares about “hooking kids when they are most vulnerable, keeping them on the platform and getting access to as much of their personal data as possible.”

“This is their business model that generates billions of dollars and they are not going to jeopardize that,” Steyer said. “This is why advocates, policymakers, and parents have to continue to keep the spotlight on Facebook and hold them accountable.”

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