Amid Backlash, Facebook Says It'll 'Pause' Work on Instagram Kids: What's Next?

Here's why Instagram, and its parent company Facebook, are facing backlash from users globally.

Tech and Auto
3 min read
<div class="paragraphs"><p>A  Wall Street Journal  report said that  internal research by Facebook suggested that Instagram had an extremely damaging effect on teenagers, especially teenage girls.</p></div>

Amid backlash from child advocates and policymakers across the globe, Facebook has temporarily shelved the controversial Instagram 'Kids' app, aimed for children between the ages of 10 and 12.

Head of Instagram Adam Mosseri, however, wants critics to know that the break in the app’s development is not “an acknowledgement that the project is a bad idea."

"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.

Here's why Facebook is facing backlash from its users globally and what's next for the social media platform.

What's the Buzz?

On 14 September, a report by The Wall Street Journal said that internal research by Facebook suggested that Instagram had an extremely damaging effect on teenagers, especially teenage girls.

Facebook conducted an internal study which focused on how the photo-sharing app Instagram affects the mental health of its millions of young users.

The firm’s researchers have found that Instagram is toxic to a sizable percentage of them, particularly teenage girls, according to internal Facebook documents obtained by WSJ.

“We make body image issues worse for one in three teen girls,” said one slide from a 2019 presentation by researchers that was posted to Facebook’s internal message board and viewed by the WSJ.

The newspaper revealed that Facebook was well aware of the harm its products were doing to teens and that the company "has made minimal efforts to address these issues and plays them down in public."

What is Facebook Saying?

In a blog post, Facebook Vice President and Head of Research, Pratiti RayChoudhury, dismissed the WSJ's assessment of internal research as 'simply not accurate' and denied the claims that Instagram was toxic for teenage girls.

RayChoudhury said: "It is simply not accurate that this research demonstrates Instagram is 'toxic' for teen girls. The research actually demonstrated that many teens we heard from feel that using Instagram helps them when they are struggling with the kinds of hard moments and issues teenagers have always faced."

She also noted that the internal research cited by WSJ had limitations as it relied on input from only 40 teenagers and was designed to focus on the most negative perceptions of Instagram.

"Our internal research is part of our effort to minimise the bad on our platforms and maximise the good. We have a long track record of using our research, as well as external research and close collaboration with our Safety Advisory Board, Youth Advisors and additional experts and organisations, to inform changes to our apps and provide resources for the people who use them," she added.


What's Next?

Following the decision to pause its Instagram Kids app, Facebook said that it will address concerns with parents, experts, policymakers, and regulators.

However, several lawmakers have called on the company to instead completely abandon the project (Instagram Kids).

According to a study by Australian advocacy group Reset Australia, children’s data could also be used to build profiles to advertise and promote products.

Interestingly, Facebook uses personal data of users aged 13 to 18 to create profiles with harmful or risky interests, including smoking, gambling, alcohol, extreme weight loss, and adult magazines, claims the research.

Earlier, Instagram faced backlash for neglecting child safety on its platform, despite claims that it contains strict privacy controls.

(With inputs from Wall Street Journal)

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