Facebook, which faced sharp criticism from lawmakers and users for its plan to develop an Instagram for kids, announced today (September 27) it’s pausing work on the project.
“While we believe building ‘Instagram Kids’ is the right thing to do, Instagram, and its parent company Facebook, will re-evaluate the project at a later date. In the interim Instagram will continue to focus on teen safety and expanding parental supervision features for teens,” the company said in a statement.
Instagram head Adam Mosseri said the app was meant for children ages 10 to 12.
The pause comes after an explosive Wall Street Journal report showed Facebook repeatedly found its Instagram app is harmful to many teenagers. The Journal cited Facebook studies over the past three years that examined how Instagram affects its young user base, with teenage girls being most notably harmed.
Facebook found that among teens who said they had suicidal thoughts, 13 percent of UK users and 6 percent of US users said these impulses could be tracked back to the app.
A slide from an internal Facebook presentation read: “We make body image issues worse for one in three teen girls.” (The figure referred to teenagers who already reported body image issues of some type.)
The report from Facebook’s internal research found that more than 40 percent of those who reported feeling “unattractive” said the feelings started when using Instagram.
The report led lawmakers to readdress their concerns over the social media app, like Senator Richard Blumenthal saying that “Facebook’s answers were so evasive — failing to even respond to all our questions — that they really raise questions about what Facebook might be hiding […] Facebook seems to be taking a page from the textbook of Big Tobacco —targeting teens with potentially dangerous products while masking the science in public.”
Representative Lori Trahan and Senator Blumenthal responded to Facebook’s decision on Monday and said the company needs to scrap its plans entirely.
“We are pleased that Facebook has heeded our calls to stop plowing ahead with its plans to launch a version of Instagram for children. A ‘pause’ is insufficient, however,” the lawmakers said in a statement. “Facebook has completely forfeited the benefit of the doubt when it comes to protecting young people online and it must completely abandon this project.”
Antigone Davis, Facebook’s global head of safety, will testify before the Senate Commerce subcommittee on consumer protection on Thursday (September 30).
Facebook has repeatedly defended its efforts to draw more kids to the app. Mosseri argued in a blog post early Monday that children are already online. “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,” he said.