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Instagram putting a 'pause' on a version of its app for kids under 13

Posted at 10:28 AM, Sep 27, 2021

The head of Instagram said Monday that the company is putting a "pause" on developing a version of the social media app for children under the age of 13.

The decision comes after intense criticism from policymakers and social scientists who say such a project would be harmful to the mental health of children.

In a blog post on Monday, Adam Mosseri said the company "stands by" the need to develop a version of the platform for younger kids. However, he is stopping the project for now to "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."

Reports of Instagram's plans to develop a version of the platform for children surfaced in March. At the time, Mosseri told BuzzFeed News that the company felt the need to create the platform because younger children were already misrepresenting their age to access the site.

However, the reports prompted a wave of criticism. In May, 40 state attorneys general signed a letter asking Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to kill the project.

"Use of social media can be detrimental to the health and well-being of children, who are not equipped to navigate the challenges of having a social media account," the letter read. "Further, Facebook has historically failed to protect the welfare of children on its platforms."

The letter also cited studies that showed that youth who use social media experience an "increase in mental distress, self-injurious behavior and suicidality among youth."

Instagram's decision on Monday also comes weeks after the Wall Street Journal reported that Facebook's internal data showed that the app made body image issues worse for one in three teenaged girls.

In his blog post explaining the decision, Mosseri clarified that the Instagram Kids project was developed for "tweens, (aged 10-12)" and required parental permission to join. He also said the planned product would not have had ads and included "age-appropriate content and features."

He also criticized the WSJ reporting in his announcement Monday, saying that he didn't "agree with how the Journal has reported on our research." He added that Instagram will continue to develop new tools that will allow parents to "meaningfully shape their teen's experience."

"I have three children and their safety is the most important thing in my life," Mosseri wrote. "I hear the concerns with this project, and we're announcing these steps today so we can get it right."