The Journal Gazette
Tuesday, September 28, 2021 1:00 am

Instagram app for kids placed on hold

Facebook proposal has faced criticism from child advocates

MICHELLE CHAPMAN | Associated Press

Facebook is putting a hold on the development of a kids' version of Instagram, geared toward children younger than 13, to address concerns that have been raised about the vulnerability of younger users.

“I still firmly believe that it's a good thing to build a version of Instagram that's designed to be safe for tweens, but we want to take the time to talk to parents and researchers and safety experts and get to more consensus about how to move forward,” said Adam Mosseri, the head of Instagram, in an interview Monday on NBC's “Today” show.

The announcement follows a investigative series by The Wall Street Journal that reported Facebook was aware the use of Instagram by some teenage girls led to mental health issues and anxiety.

Facebook announced the development of an Instagram Kids app in March, saying at the time that it was “exploring a parent-controlled experience.”

Two months later, a bipartisan group of 44 attorneys general wrote to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, urging him to abandon the project, citing the well-being of children.

They cited increased cyberbullying, possible vulnerability to online predators and what they called Facebook's “checkered record” in protecting children on its platforms.

Facebook faced similar criticism in 2017 when it launched the Messenger Kids app, touted as a way for children to chat with family members and friends approved by parents.

Josh Golin, executive director of children's digital advocacy group Fairplay, urged the company Monday to permanently pull the plug on the app. So did a group of Democratic members of Congress.

“Facebook is heeding our calls to stop plowing ahead with plans to launch a version of Instagram for kids,” Massachusetts Sen. Ed Markey tweeted. “But a 'pause' is insufficient. Facebook must completely abandon this project.”

The Senate had already planned a hearing Thursday with Facebook's global safety head, Antigone Davis, to address what the company knows about how Instagram affects the mental health of younger users.

Mosseri said Monday that the company believes it's better for children younger than 13 to have a specific platform for age-appropriate content, and that TikTok and YouTube have app versions for that age group.

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