Instagram has paused the development of a version of the app meant for kids, with Head of Instagram Adam Mosseri explaining in a blog post Monday, September 27th, that Instagram Kids was “never meant for younger kids, but for tweens (aged 10-12).” That is the definition of a kid, but we digress.
Reports that Instagram, which is owned by Facebook, was developing an under-13 app first surfaced in March (via Buzzfeed), and since then the photo-and-video sharing app has faced a deluge of criticism from child safety groups, congressional leaders, and attorneys general. In announcing the decision to pause Instagram Kids, Mosseri said, “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.”
This experience was never meant for kids. We were designing an experience for tweens (10-12yo), and it was never going to be the same as Instagram today. Parents approve tween accounts and have oversight over who they follow, who follows them, who messages them, time spent etc.
— Adam Mosseri 😷 (@mosseri) September 27, 2021
Mosseri said that Instagram Kids was meant to help address the increasing number of kids who were obtaining phones and then misrepresenting their age to download apps meant for people 13 or older. The idea, Mosseri continued, was to give parents “the option to give their children access to a version of Instagram that is designed for them — where they can supervise and control their experience.” Along with supervision tools, Instagram Kids also won’t include ads and would feature age-appropriate content and features.
The criticism that’s followed Instagram Kids since news of its existence leaked has largely focused on privacy and safety issues, as well as social media’s potentially detrimental effects on mental health. In a letter sent in April, for instance, a coalition of public health and child safety advocates stated, “Instagram, in particular, exploits young people’s fear of missing out and desire for peer approval to encourage children and teens to constantly check their devices and share photos with their followers. The platform’s relentless focus on appearance, self-presentation, and branding presents challenges to adolescents’ privacy and wellbeing.”
While there’s been no shortage of this kind of criticism, Instagram’s decision to put Instagram Kids on hold comes after a series of Wall Street Journal articles about Facebook, including one that said Instagram’s own internal research showed the app exacerbated body image issues for teen girls. Facebook has pushed back on these claims, as did Mosseri, who said he did not “agree with how the Journal has reported on our research,” adding such work is done to “make Instagram better. That means our insights often shed light on problems, but they inspire new ideas and changes to Instagram.”
Mosseri addressed other critics of Instagram Kids, too, saying, “Critics of ‘Instagram Kids’ will see this as an acknowledgment 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.”