Facebook Abandons Instagram Kids App Following Fiery Backlash
However, the announcement brought swift condemnation from parents, privacy groups, and government officials (among others). Facebook is taking that criticism to heart, as it today announced that it is “pausing” the development of Instagram Kids. According to the company, it initiated the Instagram Kids initiative because “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 public backlash against the app, which many felt was unnecessary and exploitive of children, led Facebook to rethink its deployment strategy. Instead, it will continue to field feedback from “experts, policymakers, and regulators” to cater to and protect children online. Whether that means that Facebook abandons Instagram Kids altogether or presents a more carefully crafted app in the future for children between the ages of 10 and 12 remains to be seen.
However, Facebook wants everyone to know that just because it’s pausing development doesn’t mean that it’s was foolish to attempt the app in the first place. “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,” said Adam Mosseri, who serves as the Head of Instagram.
“We’re not the only company to think so. Our peers recognized these issues and built experiences for kids. YouTube and TikTok have versions of their app for those under 13.”
While Instagram Kids is now on the back burner, Facebook says it’s working on beefing up parental controls for Instagram (for children 13 and older). “These new features, which parents and teens can opt into, will give parents the tools to meaningfully shape their teen’s experience,” added Mosseri. “We’ll have more to share on this in the coming months.”
Facebook is already facing heat following a Wall Street Journal report that alleged Instagram is a breeding ground for toxicity in teens. In addition, the company’s own internal documents reportedly confirmed that social networks resulted in a sharp increase in mental health problems for teens. Facebook, however, has rebuked the WSJ’s reporting.
“Studying these big societal issues and what impacts them is nuanced and complex,” wrote Pratiti Raychoudhury, VP and Head of Research at Facebook. “The Journal article implied that we were hiding this research and that the results are surprising, but that is simply not accurate.”