The head of Instagram, Adam Mosseri, announced this Monday, September 27 through his Twitter account that the company decided to ‘pause’ the launch of Instagram kids. The decision comes after a Wall Street Journal report denounced that the company is aware of how detrimental the app is to the mental health of teenagers, Daily Mail reported.
“We’re pausing “Instagram Kids.” This was a tough decision. I still think building this experience is the right thing to do, but we want to take more time to speak with parents and experts working out how to get this right,” the Instagram CEO wrote.
Mr. Mosseri’s announcement comes days after the prestigious U.S. newspaper, The Wall Street Journal, published a report denouncing that the company is aware that the Instagram app is detrimental to children’s mental health.
Strikingly, the WSJ report was based on a slide presentation made by the same Facebook researchers on the health effect on adolescents and in which they admit the results.
The research found that “32 percent of teenage girls said that when they felt bad about their bodies, Instagram made them feel worse,” in addition to the fact that “comparisons [of their bodies to that of influencers] on Instagram can change the way young women see and describe themselves.”
One slide claims that in the U.S. at least 6 percent of teens who reported suicidal thoughts blamed Instagram; in the U.K., this figure was 13 percent.
In August, two senators wrote a letter to Facebook’s CEO asking for documentation proving that the app was safe for children.
Republican Marsha Blackburn and Democrat Richard Blumenthal stated in their letter that “an expanding volume of scientific research shows that social media platforms can have a profoundly harmful impact on young audiences.”
“According to a May 2021 study by the anti-trafficking organization Thorn, Instagram is one of the platforms most prone to risks for minors, with over a quarter of respondents reporting potentially harmful experiences, such as sexual enticement, bullying, and other dangers,” the senators wrote.
However, the “pause” announced by Instagram appears to be only a response to public pressure.
“While we stand by the need to develop this experience, we’ve decided to pause to 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 on his Twitter account.
Mosseri blamed the Wall Street Journal report for causing ‘greater concern’ than it really is and argued that the project is based on the ability of parents to manage their children’s accounts—”Instagram kids” targets the under-13s.
“Parental supervision was a big part of what we were already building for u13s, and in the coming months we’re going to expand opt-in parental supervision to teen accounts on Instagram, giving parents more oversight of their teen’s experiences on our app,” the Instagram CEO said.
In his remarks, Mosseri attempted to deflect criticism by saying that currently, both YouTube and TikTok have apps for under-13s and that Instagram was simply about to do the same.
“Us pausing doesn’t change the status quo. U13s are getting phones, misrepresenting their age, and downloading 13+ apps. YouTube and TikTok saw this happening and made u13 products, we were doing the same,” the Instagram chief wrote.
Interestingly, the same WSJ also conducted an investigation through which it discovered that the Chinese short video app, Tik Tok, suggests pornographic material, encourages drug and alcohol consumption to children between 13 and 15 years old, despite the company’s claims they put children’s safety as a top priority.